Mets Game 53: Loss to Dodgers

Dodgers 9 Mets 5

I absolutely refuse to blame Aaron Heilman for this game.

Rather, it is the fault of Willie Randolph / a.k.a. “Bill R”.

The Mets led 5-4 going into the top of the 8th, and Pedro Feliciano had pitched a scoreless 7th. However, because lefthanded-hitting Juan Pierre was leading off, Feliciano was left in to start the frame. BAD IDEA. Why? Number one, because it’s stupid to apply the lefty-lefty thing to a singles hitter such as Feliciano — particularly when the next guy coming in, you supposedly believe “matches up well” against lefties. Number two, Heilman is MUCH better when pitching with the bases empty, which is guaranteed when he starts an inning. Number three, Feliciano is supposed to be a LOOGY or a one-inning guy. Having him pitch multiple innings means you can’t use him for the rest of the weekend.

So Pierre leads off with a ground ball out, but the first base umpire flubbed the play and called him safe instead. Since there is a righthanded hitter up next, Willie strides out to the mound to remove Feliciano and insert Aaron Heilman. Apparently, Willie was completely oblivious to these facts:

a.) Heilman just pitched two innings two days ago, and had pitched two innings two days before that;

b.) Heilman’s batting average against is almost 200 points higher with men on base than with bases empty;

c.) Someone (Rick Peterson?) has messed with Aaron’s mechanics so his hand is now below the ball at release, which causes pitches to be higher than intended.

The main point is (a) — Heilman has routinely pitched less effectively when overused. And yes, now that MLB regularly tests players for PEDs, most pitchers cannot pitch as regularly in the past (this is not to indict Heilman as a past user; rather, it is pointing out that managers must re-evaluate individual relief appearance frequency based on more humanly possible expectations).

I stated this in a recent post: I do not like the low arm angle Heilman has pitched with in his last few outings — the stats and performance be damned. Throwing from that sideways release MIGHT be OK when he’s feeling strong, but if he’s even a tad bit fatigued, his angle will drop by merely an inch and as a result his pitches will be up in the zone instead of down. And, wow, what do you know? The majority of his pitches in this abbreviated stint were up. Huh.

Anyway, back to the game.

It looked as though the Mets were going to win their fourth straight game when they went ahead 5-4 in the seventh when a bases-loaded grounder by Ramon Castro plated David Wright. The run capped a fine fight by the Mets, who came back to tie the Dodgers twice earlier in the game. If nothing else, this contest showed the Mets still have spirit. However, John Maine had a tough time, allowing three runs in the first frame, and a solo homer to Russell Martin in the fourth. On the offensive side, the Mets had a few opportunities to have huge innings, loading the bases in the third, fourth, and seventh, but scored only one run each time. Their only multiple-run inning came in the first, on Luis Castillo’s third homerun of the season and second in three days.

Notes

Carlos Delgado was inspired in game 52, but back to his old ways in #54. It’s borderline hilarious — to a non-Mets fan — to watch Delgado’s response to ground balls to the right side. If you watched Aaron Heilman’s horrible outing in the eighth, you saw at least two of the four hits go through the right side. The balls bounced past Delgado, who made absolutely zero attempt to move toward the balls, but rather turned his head ever so slightly and watched them zip past. Now, I’m pretty certain he couldn’t have made a play on either of the grounders, but geez louise — at least make a MOVEMENT, a REACTION to the ball. After diving all over the field the night before, Delgado went right back to cementing his feet into a comfortable spot of clay and acting as a curious spectator on balls to the right side.

Although Scott Schoeneweis has been pitching very well recently, and has a sparkling ERA, I must once again mention that he is the last person you want to see running in from the bullpen if you are a Mets pitcher leaving the game with runners on base. It’s amazing how many inherited runners he allows to score; I thought it was my imagination but the stats support my vision — he’s allowed something like 50% of inherited runners to cross the plate. Note to Willie: as we suggest with Heilman, let Scho start innings. Your old teammate Rich Gossage was adamant about that, too — you should remember.

Luis Castillo left the game after straining his hip flexor on a double play turn. Is this Jose Valentin’s window of opportunity?

BTW, who the heck is Charlie Minn and what is he doing on SNY’s Daily News Live? I can’t wait until web and TV converge and all the nasty MetsBlog commenters can rip guys like Minn to shreds while they’re watching the show (hmm … it would be kind of like The Gong Show).

Next Game

Unfortunately, it’s a FOX game on Saturday, so a 3:55 pm start. Mike Pelfrey goes against Chad Billingsley. My confidence in Big Pelf is as low as always, but who knows, he might surprise us and have one of those sparkling starts.

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. isuzudude May 31, 2008 at 8:18 am
    There were certainly a lot of individuals who could have won the blame game from last night’s loss, but I think you hit the nail on the head, Joe. And I know it’s probably as painful for you as it is for me to come out and slam Willie for a loss, because we’ve pretty much been in his corner all season long. But this one is totally his fault, no bones about it. It’s as if he learned nothing from our modest 3-game winning streak, which should have reinforced:

    1. The Mets can still win games w/o Delgado in the lineup
    2. Aaron Heilman is not to be used in tight ball games, especially with runners on base

    It could be real easy for the majority of us to throw the 1B ump into the fire for this loss. After all, it was his botched call on Pierre’s grounder that openned the flood gates. It could also be easy to get on the offense for leaving 40 men left on base during the game. But the bottom line is that they scored enough runs to put the Mets in a position to win, and that’s what matters most.

    I concur: the real culprit was Willie. It was dumb enough to leave Feliciano in the game to start the 8th knowing he would only face one batter, the slap-hitting Juan Pierre (who, by the way, is hitting .410 vs. LHP and .231 vs. RHP on the year…it pays to do your homework, Willie!). I’d like to know, in a 5-4 game in the 8th inning, where is Duaner Sanchez, the “setup man?” All of a sudden he’s not good enough to hold a lead? But Heilman is? And that’s really the coup de grace. Heilman had two good outings against the Fish and suddenly he’s back as the team’s everyday firefighter. WHY MUST WILLIE FORCE FEED HEILMAN TO EVERY GAME THAT IS LATE AND CLOSE?????? This is as blatantly ignorant and stubborn as I’ve ever witnessed Willie. And now I, along with the rest of my Mets constituency, will be worrying if Willie’s HORRIBLE decisions last night thwarted all the progress the team made over the previous 3 games.

    I’m not one to go calling for management’s head after every loss. But this one was bad. Really bad. You can’t expect to win if you’re continually going to beat yourself. Much more of this and I might be forced to joined the “Fire Willie” brigade.

  2. sincekindergarten May 31, 2008 at 11:32 am
    I’m already there, ID. For the good of the team, and because of the Wilpons’ imitation of Al Davis, via MetsBlog.

    As for today, I’m strangely confident in Big Pelf. That is, if the game goes off.

  3. Micalpalyn May 31, 2008 at 3:26 pm
    ……….I concur: the real culprit was Willie. It was dumb enough to leave Feliciano in the game to start the 8th knowing he would only face one batter, the slap-hitting Juan Pierre (who, by the way, is hitting .410 vs. LHP and .231 vs. RHP on the year………

    Bill R has ammended many flaws. With his disparaging use of rookies/coddling of Delgado somewhat reduced his chronic ignorance of lefty-righty splits AND insistance (especially) with starters (Ollie?) of keeping them in tight games after they are spent…….is now to fore. Ollie is a 5 inning pitcher………PERIOD. Anything else is gravy. I’d pep him up with ‘give me 5’ I think he could do 5 no hit innings with that advice. BUT we know he rarely has the tank for 6+. BUT after OLLIE struggles thru 5 here he comes for the 6th…more often than not. ….the sad thing is that if he would relinquish his exteremes he could have had those 5-6 wins that would diffuse the machete carrying mob.

    Carlos Muniz has shown glimpses of being a good fireman, and getting stikeouts.