Mets Game 33: Loss to Cubs

Cubs 6 Mets 1

Noah Syndergaard‘s much-anticipated debut ends early, and results in a loss.

Mets Game Notes

I don’t like to make evaluations or conclusions based on a pitcher’s MLB debut, for at least two reasons. First, and the most obvious, is that the pitcher could have been affected by nerves — and this can cause either negative or positive results, if you agree that “nerves” include extra adrenaline that might not flow quite as massively going forward. Second, if the pitcher does well, it could have been due to the mirage of mystery. So in assessing Syndergaard’s first start, I’ll be brief and keep it as general as possible:

– the young man throws very hard; he reached 98 MPH on several pitches
– his fastball has good movement, both vertical and horizontal
– his secondary pitches have the potential to be good, though they need to be more consistent
– speaking of needing consistency, he needs to repeat his delivery
– speaking of his delivery, it needs to be corrected before he repeats it

The TV broadcast didn’t provide enough angles for me to make any kind of evaluation of Syndergaard’s mechanics in terms of timing. I really hate the centerfield camera, and really, really hate that all baseball TV producers think we’re not interested in seeing multiple angles of the pitchers’ motions. But, I guess I’m in the minority.

Syndergaard pitched very well through the first five frames, though he struggled a bit in the third after a Daniel Murphy error “infield single” by Kris Bryant. (Seriously? That’s scored a “hit”? Maybe by a high school coach padding the stats for his All-County star.) The extra pitches Syndergaard threw that inning eventually caught up to him, as he ran out of gas in the sixth. The big man struck out 6 and walked 4 in 5 1/3 innings; hardly dominating, but certainly encouraging for a 22-year-old making his debut against what may be one of the top three or four lineups in the NL.

While on the subject of that lineup … wow, the Cubs are for real. I was surprised at their pitch recognition; Syndergaard had serious velocity and movement, and the Cubs hitters, for the most part, were able to lay off pitches that moved out of the zone. Kris Bryant is a beast. Anthony Rizzo may be one of the top five hitters in the National League. Jorge Soler is a beast in the making. Addison Russell has the makings of a beast. And Starlin Castro may finally be fulfilling the potential for which everyone has been waiting. Dexter Fowler and Miguel Montero — both formidable offensive threats in their own right — are ancillary in this lineup. Oh, and there may never be room for slugging Javier Baez to return. If the Cubs get decent pitching, they might make a serious postseason run.

I mentioned Starlin Castro, and will mention again that he might finally be growing into the superstar he’s supposed to be. For someone whose scouting report supposedly includes “poor fielding,” Castro is pretty darn slick with the glove. I had heard that he was working diligently on his defense over the past year and a half, and maybe it wasn’t PR spin — he made some very nice, athletic plays in the first two games of this series. Perhaps Russell’s presence at second base and as heir apparent to the shortstop position has motivated Castro to up his game a notch?

Is anyone else completely befuddled by the Cubs’ defensive alignment when Daniel Murphy comes to the plate? Who are their advance scouts? Or did they get their scouting reports on a K-Mart blue light special? For the past seven years, Murphy has been mostly a punch-and-judy hitter who slaps singles to the left side. So why, exactly, do the Cubs play him to pull? It’s as mysterious as pitchers who throw Murphy pitches on the outside part of the plate when runners are in scoring position — it’s exactly the region of the strike zone that Murphy has made a living. Stunning.

While on the subject of Murphy slapping balls into left field, you may have witnessed Curtis Granderson make an irresponsible and feeble attempt to advance to third base from first on such a single. Kids, there are two rules to remember: 1) never, EVER make the first (or third) out at third base; 2) never, EVER advance to third when the ball is in front of you. Pretty simple stuff. A runner CAN advance to third on a ball hit to left field, but it has to be so deep or so toward center that it’s behind you; in most cases, that’s only going to happen on a) a hit-and-run; or b) a high school/rec field where there is no outfield fence.

Is the Mets bullpen finally cracking? Is the pitching staff in general falling to Earth in terms of limiting baserunners? After pointing out the fact that Mets pitchers allowed the fewest walks in baseball, they’ve walked 13 batters in two games. Oy!

Next Mets Game

Mets and Cubs do it again at 8 PM on Wednesday night at Wrigley Field in Chicago. Matt Harvey takes the hill against Jason Hammel.

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. Walnutz15 May 13, 2015 at 9:03 am
    How Murph’s able to not make all these plays, yet somehow escape errors from being recorded by the official scorer is beyond my comprehension of the sport. And don’t take it as an isolated complaint, as it’s happened – specifically in his case – for a handful of years now. (In actuality, he’s a 40 error “Jose Offerman”-type candidate.)

    Have to wonder what might have transpired for Syndergaard – with a clean close to the inning, and not adding 15-20 pitches to his overall count.

    Wasn’t a bad debut overall, and some things to be impressed about. No one’s going to hang around all that deep into a ballgame, waiting to score your 1st run in the 8th inning.

    Gotta start swingin’ it at some point if you want to keep atop the standings.

    • Extragooey May 13, 2015 at 10:16 am
      The “error” stat, which is a subjective call by an “official scorer” is way overdue to be thrown out. Good thing there are alternatives.
      • Walnutz15 May 13, 2015 at 10:51 am
        Agreed. Just further skews what you’re viewing, though – especially from certain people’s homerific defense points.
  2. Extragooey May 13, 2015 at 10:07 am
    Mental, Mental, and more mental errors sum up the Mets evening last night. Sure, the offense didn’t hit again, so they would have lost anyway, even without the mental mistakes. It seems like all of Murphy’s “errors” this year are all of the mental and not physical type. Kris Bryant hustled and beat out the play. But don’t give the hitter credit for what he’s suppose to do. What else is there but run as hard as you can to first. Murphy took his time after fielding a very hard hit ball, and then threw a lollipop over to first. Speaking of Murphy, why wasn’t he on 2nd after Granderson’s out at 3rd? Just like Granderson, the whole play was in front of him. He should know the throw was going to 3rd and should have continued to 2nd. Of course, Cuddyer came up and promptly grounded into his 100th double play this year.

    Syndergaard thows very hard. But his lack of command on his secondary pitches was the problem for him last night. I also don’t remember ever seeing a Cub fish for a pitch last night. Either he was tipping his pitches, or they were picking up his curve and change early and recognizing them well.

    Starlin Castro hit just his 2nd and 3rd doubles of the year last night. Don’t give him credit for turning it around after one game. Also, you can make the spectacular plays and still be a bad defender. Don’t confuse the two.

    I don’t see why Alex Torres is a major league pitcher? How does a big leaguer miss the strike zone by so much consistently when he needs to throw a strike. It baffles my mind.

    The Mets have lost the first two of this 4 game series. I felt they were unlucky the first game. So many hard hit balls right at people and deserved better than a 4-3 loss. This game they definitely deserved to lose with all the mental errors and just not hitting Arrieta, who is a darn good pitcher. No wonder Gary Apple had him as his top fantasy choice last night. I would have as well, especially facing the Mets offense.

    • Walnutz15 May 13, 2015 at 10:52 am
      “Speaking of Murphy, why wasn’t he on 2nd after Granderson’s out at 3rd?”


  3. Bat May 13, 2015 at 10:49 pm

    Janish wrote above:

    Never, EVER advance to third if the ball is hit in front of you.

    Rizzo just did this in the 9th inning of tonight’s game and Cuddyer’s wet noodle of an arm couldn’t throw him out.

    Rizzo’s smart and aggressive play changed the entire complexity of the 9th inning, because instead of t being first and second no one out, it was first and third no one out, and the winning run 90 feet away.

    Generally, Janish is right but it is not as absolute as he says in “Never, EVER”…if you have a guy like Cuddyer or Granderson playing LF, you consider taking 3B in that situation.

    Rizzo / Cubs 1, Janish 0

    • Extragooey May 14, 2015 at 11:24 am
      Well, it was Szczur, not Rizzo. He pitch ran for him. Advancing to 3rd is always a judgment call and a veteran like Granderson should know if he can make it or not. He got thrown out by a lot.
      • Extragooey May 14, 2015 at 11:26 am
        “pinch ran”
  4. Bat May 14, 2015 at 3:17 pm
    My point was that Janish wrote “Never EVER” – absolutely, positively, never – and that simply isn’t true.

    You rarely take the base in front of the outfielder, but some guys are fast and the OF in question has a terrible throwing arm, so you take the chance if you get a good jump.

    Interesting how Janish did not address this baserunning by the Cubs, which took place on the very next day after he said “Never EVER” do this – this was a significant factor in the Cubs winning the game.

    • Joe Janish May 14, 2015 at 5:42 pm
      I stand by the EXACT instruction stated in the post, for teaching KIDS, INCLUDING the exceptions that you took the poetic license to omit/ignore.

      Stated again for those who didn’t read all the way through:

      “Kids, there are two rules to remember: 1) never, EVER make the first (or third) out at third base; 2) never, EVER advance to third when the ball is in front of you. Pretty simple stuff. A runner CAN advance to third on a ball hit to left field, but it has to be so deep or so toward center that it’s behind you; in most cases, that’s only going to happen on a) a hit-and-run; or b) a high school/rec field where there is no outfield fence.”

      Again, this is what KIDS learning the game should be taught. When kids grow into men, and reach the level of MLB, and have the benefit of scouting reports and injury knowledge, MAYBE a MLBer can take the risk of advancing with the ball in front of him. But then again, the circumstances have to be PERFECT, especially when there are either no outs or two outs.

      But let’s forget that last sentence about men in MLB for a moment, and look specifically at the play you mention, Bat. Did you watch the game? Did you see what pinch-runner Szczur was doing when Carlos Torres began his delivery? He was IN MOTION. This is also called a HIT-AND-RUN. Go back and read my instruction quoted above. Did I mention the “hit-and-run”? Szczur was running before the ball was hit, the ball was hit to a terrible fielder (Cuddyer), and by the time that terrible fielder had his glove on the ball, in the runner’s judgment it was deep enough to take the risk. In fact, the runner had such a jump, and it took Cuddyer to get to the ball so long, that by the time Cuddyer came up throwing, he was effectively behind — and not in front of — the runner.

      As for Granderson, the play was in front of him the entire time. He was NOT in motion / there was NOT a hit-and-run happening. And Kris Bryant has a strong arm as well as better ability to charge a ball. It was an awful play by Granderson, no matter which way you slice it, and I stand by my “absolute” for the kids.

      Janish 1 Bat 0

  5. Bat May 14, 2015 at 10:01 pm
    There is no absolutism for adults or even kids – you wrote this as if saying: “if there is a million times an opportunity to go 1st to 3rd, you never, EVER do it.”

    Um, no.

    Typically, usually, in almost all cases, you don’t do it.

    Not “never, EVER”.

    I note that you said after approximately 15 games you hadn’t watched an inning of Mets baseball. If you have watched all or even most of the Mets games this season, you would see that runners are almost always taking an extra base on balls hit to Granderson and Cuddyer. It is patently obvious that the scouting reports say “Run on these guys – each of them has no arm whatsoever.”

    As good as Lagares is defensively, that’s how bad Granderson and Cuddyer’s arms are.

    You should fully expect this to continue the entire year – opposing teams taking bases at will when the balls are hit to Granderson or Cuddyer. And yes, they’ll even take a base now and again when the ball is hit to Cuddyer and the base being taken is third, and there are no outs or 2 outs.

    As far as kids go, if the manager knows the guy in LF throws like a Little League version of Granderson, he’ll have the 3B coach sending the kid. More likely, the manager will be the 3B coach sending the kid.

    • Joe Janish May 15, 2015 at 8:21 am
      Really? You want to argue with me about semantics? I’m not sure if you do this because you’re serious or you like to yank my chain. But what the heck, I’ll play.

      First off, thank you for reminding everyone that your reading comprehension rivals my math skills. In addition to not acknowledging the exceptions that followed my “absolute,” you also repeated another miscomprehended comment from a few weeks ago. I corrected it then, so no need to repeat — just go here:

      But back to my “absolutism.” Absolutes are also called “rules.” Without them, we wouldn’t have society, we’d have chaos. As a teacher and coach, absolutes are important tools for learning. Why do we have the words “never,” “always,” “constantly,” “every,” etc., when we know those terms aren’t practical? Do they exist simply so that words such as “except” can also exist?

      “Absolute” words and phrases (as you term them — since we’re now in a philosophical discussion I’ll refer to them as “universal quantifiers”) are forms of hyperbole, a.k.a. exaggeration. They are used frequently in the English language for emphasis and/or to illustrate a point. Further, when hyperbole is used, it is accepted by both parties (speaker and listener / writer and reader) to be as such, and not to be taken 100% literally. (Ah! That’s why the word “except” exists!)

      Again, I use hyperbole frequently in my writing and in my teaching. It’s part of my writing style and it’s one way I can emphasize a piece of learning. For example, maybe at some point in your life, someone told you to “never” run a red light while driving a car — you must always stop. But what if you must do so in order to avoid an accident, or to allow a police car to pass by, or if you’re part of a funeral procession? Or maybe you were taught to “always” start a sentence with a capital letter? Hmm … but then, what happens if you start a sentence with Jacob deGrom’s last name?

      You can keep fighting me on this, but I’m done … though first, I’ll leave you with this:

      Always and Never statements are always false and never true.