Mets Game 69: Loss To Braves

Braves 2 Mets 1

Where to begin? At minimum, a team needs to pitch, field, and hit to win baseball games. One out of the three isn’t enough.

Mets Game Notes

Jacob deGrom was brilliant through seven, and was still pretty darn good through another third of an inning, yet Terry Collins removed him because it was hot and deGrom had thrown 97 pitches. I’m not sure what either of those explanations are supposed to mean. I’m pretty sure a 27-year-old athlete in world-class shape and is properly hydrating should be able to continue in that spot. I don’t know about the 97 pitches thing, when deGrom has thrown as many as 109 pitches this year. Collins said he saw a flat slider. OK, I saw a hanging curve that Andrelton Simmons was sitting on. Either way, one mistake. Beyond that, my eyes saw a pitcher who was cruising and confounding Atlanta’s hitters. I also saw a pitcher who — at that precise moment — was the Mets’ very best option. Certainly, far better than Rule 5 draftee who ranks somewhere between the 11th- and 13-best pitcher on the roster. It seemed that Collins was reacting more to the situation — one that resulted in a lefthanded hitter coming to bat after Ruben Tejada didn’t anchor on a sacrifice bunt back to the pitcher followed by Wilmer Flores making a very bad play to allow Pedro Ciriaco to reach base and put runners on the corners.

Though Tejada made the wrong play on the bunt, it’s really hard to fault him — it’s not Tejada’s fault he’s at third base, a position at which he has very little experience. (For the record, Collins said during the postgame that Tejada “made the right play” — he most assuredly did NOT.) I don’t blame Tejada for charging a ball that was easily handled by the athletic (but apparently overheated?) deGrom. Rather, I blame Mets management for putting him in a situation to fail. Likewise, I don’t blame Flores for botching the routine ground ball turned into an infield single, because, again, it’s the fault of Mets management that Flores is out of position. Wait — isn’t shortstop Tejada’s “natural” position, and wasn’t third base supposed to be Flores’ main and eventual position back in 2012? Eh, what’s the difference? Keep pushing those square pegs into round holes, and hope that players hit enough to make up for the defensive deficiencies. It works well in Strat-O-Matic.

Speaking of Flores, I will fully admit to not watching much Mets baseball this year compared to the past nine years. However, it seems that every time I watch a Mets game, Flores makes an error, and/or doesn’t make a play that a below-average MLB shortstop makes routinely (often with a hit awarded to the batter instead of an error), and/or commits some kind of mental error or suffers a brain freeze that results in runners advancing. Is this just a wild coincidence or is Flores regularly making life more difficult for Mets pitchers?

And please, before you call me a “hater” or berate me for criticizing Flores, I’ll say it YET AGAIN: it’s not Flores’ fault he’s out of position, it’s the fault of Mets management. And if you agree with Mets management that Flores belongs at shortstop on a MLB team, then we can’t have a conversation. Feel free to talk at me in the comments, but I will not respond — this argument is getting tired and boring (just like the Daniel Murphy at 2B discussion). If it’s true that Flores will eventually be an impact bat at the Major League level — and there is plenty of reason to believe that can happen — then put the kid in a corner, any corner, and let him focus on hitting.

While Flores is driving in runs, it’s kind of funny that Tejada’s OPS is over 45 points higher than Flores’. Though, we’ll check that number again a month from now and see if there’s still reason to chuckle.

Oh, let’s get off the backs of the Mets’ good-hit, no-field infielders. Let’s get back on Terry Collins’ case, and wonder aloud why he not only removed deGrom in that fateful 8th, but also needed 4 pitchers to get 3 outs, and why oh why oh why did he send Jeurys Familia to the mound to get the third out? Is it October already? If it is, are all those moves still necessary or logical? Collins is acting strangely desperate for a manager in first place. To add injury to insult, Familia’s five-pitch outing resulted in a “cramp” that may keep him out of action for the weekend. Wait, what? Is this more heat-related stuff? Can someone please feed the Mets salted bananas and pour Gatorade down their throats so they can stay on the field?

And not fer nuttin’, but it’s not fair to put all the blame on the Mets’ defense and Collins’ mysterious management decisions. At the end of the day, the Mets scored one measly run, and it was driven in by a 55-bouncer that took a fortuitous and unexpected 12-foot-high skip on bounce #54 to barely escape the reach of Atlanta shortstop Andrelton Simmons. In the boxscore, of course, Michael Cuddyer hit a line drive to left — but if you saw the game, you know better. Even with near-perfect pitching a team can only expect to win so often when the offense scores a single run — just ask the 1974-1977 Mets.

On a side note, both Braves runs scored on a double to center by Jace Peterson. The ball was a rocket that went over Juan Lagares‘ head. I didn’t expect Lagares to get to that ball by any stretch — Willie Mays on the “red juice” AND steroids couldn’t have caught it. What struck me was that Lagares didn’t get his customary great jump on the ball — he seemed to hesitate. WSJ writer Jared Diamond saw the same thing, and led me to his article on Lagares’ defensive drop. The stats say Lagares is only an “average” fielding center fielder, with Diamond suggesting it is due to his injury woes. I concur, and wonder how long the Mets can continue to play him regularly. Recently, Lagares has been hot at the plate, so there’s every reason to keep him in the lineup. But overall his offense is nothing special — despite healthy-looking .280 batting average, he has a .309 OBP and .681 OPS. Those numbers are fine from someone providing world-class defense, but unacceptable from someone brandishing an average glove. Being made aware of Lagares’ defensive struggles this year, I now understand why the Mets brought back Kirk Nieuwenhuis and are giving Darrell Ceciliani an extended look — Lagares may require a platoon partner soon.

Did anyone else wish for a Bob Ojeda guest appearance on SNY Postgame Live to rip the Mets’ play and Collins’ management to shreds in his raw, real style? As mentioned many times previously, I am a fan of Nelson Figueroa the player and person, and what he says is spot-on, but his delivery is chamomile tea when we want Cholula hot sauce.

Next Mets Game

The Mets and Braves do it again at 7:10 PM on Saturday night in Atlanta. Noah Syndergaard goes against Williams Perez. Salt those bananas, boys.

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 June 20, 2015 at 1:43 am
    On a team built around young pitching, it is illogical to play an inferior fielding shortstop. Better to win the 1-0 games and 3-2 with a glove first guy like Tejada and yes, it is silly for the Mets to insist on playing Flores and Tejada out of their best position. So why are they doing it one must ask? I think a lot of it has to do with D Wright and the idea his seat is being kept warm, and the other part is a stubborn insistence on seeing if Flores can hit enough and not make enough errors to stay at SS. I still say not likely.

    I caught the Mets win over the Blue Jays when Matt Harvey pitched on Tuesday night and 2 plays from that game is all you needed to see to grasp Flores’ weakness – even though he made a nice scoop and got the out on his play.

    First, with a runner on 2nd and 2 outs in the 6th, I think, there was a weak grounder to the left side. It appeared to be a sure infield hit as Flores was nowhere to be seen, I expect because he was positioned deep and towards the middle, but Tejada came flying in, scooped up the ball and fired to first to beat the runner by a step. If you watch closely you can see Tejada actually gloved the ball as it was coming up and at the same time he was bringing his glove up to his right shoulder. This enabled him to throw to first extremely quickly, as the transfer was almost instantaneous.

    Later in the game, perhaps the 8th inning, there was a ground ball hit up the middle and it looked like it had a chance to get through, but Flores came over, moving to his left, and scooped the ball up before throwing to first to get the out on what was undeniably a nice play. However, if you watch him closely you will see he actually looked down in his glove when he fielded the grounder, as if to make sure he got it, then threw to first. The look down to his glove and then the transfer from glove to throwing hand took a split second but we are talking about Major League Baseball and that is all it takes. As we saw in tonight’s game against the Braves.

  2. argonbunnies June 20, 2015 at 7:35 am
    Joe, I’ve watched nearly every inning this year, and no, you aren’t wrong that Flores gives away a lot more outs than his (also large) error total would suggest. If you count DPs not converted, my best guess is that he’s averaging about 1 gift out per game. If we credit him for the handful of actual very good plays he’s made, then maybe that goes down to .9 or something. That combined with his .278 OBP is kind of like a good-fielding SS with a .220 OBP. But all we’re going to hear from Mets decision-makers is how his HR and RBI totals rank among the best in the game at the position. For all the “fantasy front office” talk of 2011, no one’s going to publicly espouse any sophisticated take on what wins games. Irritating.

    I’ve always thought GKR did a good job being impartial in terms of relaying facts, but they’re just as guilty — it’s all HRs, RBIs, and a flukishly acceptable rating from a defensive metric that’s meaningless in small samples (one of the Zone Rating ones). I’m sure Wilmer’s +/- (a BIS metric) is off-the-charts bad. Not sure whether that’s on GKR, or the SNY stats guy, or some producer telling the stats guy which numbers to pass along.

    As for “it’s the Mets’ fault for playing players out of position,” I think that’s ridiculous here. Say that when players make physical errors on plays they’re not athletic enough to handle. When it comes to mental errors, no one is to blame but the players themselves. Tejada and Flores both made plays that could 100% have been avoided with proper mental preparation. As Perez is walking to the plate to bunt, Tejada should be thinking about what to do depending on where the ball is bunted; as Flores is moving in for Ciriaco’s AB, he should be thinking about what to do if the ball is hit to him. Any intense baseball fan knew what to do in those situations — the second the ball left the bat, I certainly knew what the correct play was in both cases. But Tejada and Flores didn’t. That’s a lack of focus and anticipation, and that’s on them (and perhaps the coaches who prepare them and the manager who doesn’t penalize them for mental mistakes).

    The Mets didn’t get out-hit or out-pitched or out-run on Friday, and those are the kinds of games they absolutely have to win. Rooting for untalented teams is dispiriting, but rooting for sloppy teams is much more galling. I’ll even call the Braves’ big hit a Mets mental mistake; that was NOT the situation for Plawecki and Gilmartin to go with a 3-1 fastball for a strike.

    • Dan42 June 20, 2015 at 10:36 am
      Playing out of position, especially if the player doesn’t have the natural ability to play that position has to effect things like mental errors and anticipation. A SS playing third is nowhere near as bad as a 3B playing SS, which is clearly obvious just looking at that game. One is a square peg in a round hole, the other is more like a square peg in a triangular hole, with the side of the square being the same as the sides of the triangle.

      As for DeGrom, pulling him only makes sense if he is showing signs of fatigue, not because of a pitch count or Collins’ thermal warning system.

      • Extragooey June 22, 2015 at 11:43 am
        Agreed, playing out of position can lead to the mental errors. There was a ground ball to Tejada in this game that wasn’t mentioned that I thought a natural 3rd baseman would have turned into an out. It was a fairly hard hit grounder to Tejada backed up on and played an in between hop to his right. He had to make a great play just to field it, but it turned him around so that he essentially had no time to throw the runner out. The throw was bad anyway and the runner was safe. I can’t help a natural 3rd baseman like Wright would have reacted faster and charged it for a short hop and turned it into a routine out. As it is, it was another ground ball not turned into an out.
  3. argonbunnies June 20, 2015 at 7:36 am
    As for Lagares, anybody can get one bad read. His problem this year is three-fold:

    1) He can’t throw hard, and now everyone knows it. Not only is he not throwing people out, he’s also stopped being a deterrent.

    2) Over-shifting. Lagares has missed balls in right center that many CFs get to because he’s playing well into left center, and he’s missed balls in left center while playing in right center. This is the main thing depressing his defensive ratings. Some of this is bad luck and batters hitting against the spray charts, but some of it is mismanagement by whoever positions Juan. What good is it to have a guy who covers tons of ground if you park him in an alley? Play him closer to straight-away; if you shift him, shift him slightly.

    3) Fear. No longer a first or second year player trying to establish that he belongs with daring, all-out plays, Lagares’ injuries have reminded him of his baseball mortality, and he’s shied away from the wall. On the replay of a recent high fly ball to the base of the wall which Juan’s glove couldn’t quite reach, you can clearly see him slowing down as he approaches the wall.

    In 2013-2014, he finds a way to make that catch while twisting or turning so he can roll along the wall or at least avoid hitting it squarely with his arm and face. But that play requires complete confidence with no doubt or hesitation, and I don’t think Juan has that anymore, after all his arm and rib troubles.

  4. argonbunnies June 20, 2015 at 7:57 am
    One final thought: I don’t always see eye-to-eye with Collins, but haven’t found too many things to absolutely blast him for. Well, Friday’s 8th inning was an exception. If you’re AT ALL willing to bring in Familia that inning, you obviously have to bring him in to replace deGrom. “No I’m not; oh wait, now I guess I am,” is bad planning and bad leadership. Speaking of which, refusing to let deGrom get himself out of the mess his teammates left him in has got to be incredibly demoralizing. The way Collins gives Harvey extra outs, saying he’s “earned it” by the way he’s “competing”, why doesn’t Jacob ever earn it simply by pitching well?

    Over his last 6 starts, deGrom has allowed 3 earned runs while he was on the mound, and 4 from the dugout.

    If there is any such thing as a pitcher earning more outs in baseball, deGrom is Exhibit A. He’s faced 161 batters, allowed 3 to score, and left with 4 more on base. Robles and Gilmartin each faced ONE batter and allowed all 4 inherited runners to score.

    Robles was always a poor choice over Goeddel anyway, in my opinion. Terry and Dan were watching the radar gun and ignoring command. And we wonder why so few pitchers these days have actual pitching intelligence. The incentives are clear. Touch 98, and you’ll get every chance. Develop a nasty splitter and curve but top out at 93 and you’re on thinner ice. I’m wishing the best for Erik’s elbow. (Not that his location was pinpoint or anything; just way better than Robles.)

    Sorry to monopolize the comments. I went through several weeks with no Mets chat.

    • argonbunnies June 20, 2015 at 8:20 am
      Over those last 6 starts, deGrom has left every game with a lead. With good relief, he’d be 6-0 with an 0.60 ERA, as well as 10-4 with a 1.95 ERA on the season and neck-and-neck in the Cy Young discussion.

      I may have a new favorite Met to root for…

      On the downside, his motion looked rushed on Friday (something I saw in Harvey too until his last start), and his fastball command was not where it had been. I hope he can get back to where he was for the previous 5 starts.

  5. DanB June 20, 2015 at 9:06 pm
    The more things change, the more things stay the same. Putting Flores at short reminds me of past experiments such as Hubie Brooks, Kevin Mitchell, and Howard Johnson all shoehorned into short in the hopes their bat compensates for their glove. Considering those failures why should I think Flores is any different?
  6. david June 21, 2015 at 5:42 am
    Credit to the Mets for sitting Flores today, but the concept of contagious bad defense was evident when we saw Lagares make an absolute bonehead play in CF. He tried to barehand a soft single to center and took his eye off in the process. Kudos to Argon for his timely post about our centerfielder. He is not 100% and he definitely pulled out of that catch the other night and missed Bautista’s triple. But today was inexcusable for a guy who makes his living with his glove.

    Still, I think its a tad early to start talking about platoons. I think Lagares’ error today reflects his serious unease about guys like AJ taking a base on him. Pride is a mighty thing. Hence it rates a mention as one of the 7 deadly sins.

    As for Herrera not covering 2nd on a steal, I did not see it but what can you say? Other than there was obviously a lack of communication between him, Tejada, and TDA who – let’s hope – is ok since I like this team’s chances a lot more with him than without him. He brings a fire that they need, but man he needs to stay healthy in the worst way.

    In sum, poor fundamentals cost the team another win and don’t blame Wilmer for this one. And don’t dare blame the coaching staff, they got your young kids and young players are gonna make mistakes, blah blah, blah blah

  7. Dan B June 21, 2015 at 9:32 am
    Sorry to go off topic but did anyone notice the trade the Braves made? They gave up utility infielder Phillip Gosselin for DBack’s Bronson Arroyo and prospect Touki Toussaint. At first you might wonder why would the Braves trade for Arroyo when he isn’t due back from TJ surgery until August. Basically the Braves bought Toussaint from the DBacks for the remaining $10 million on Arroyo’s contract. Whether you like the trade you must admire the Braves circumventing the rules to buy another top prospect. Just trading players you not going to sign isn’t enough. You have to be creative.
  8. friend June 22, 2015 at 4:48 pm
    “Keep pushing those square pegs into round holes”

    I’m getting the sense that watching them try to get both the defense and bullpen players assigned to the proper positions and roles is not unlike watching a novice trying to work through a Rubik’s cube.