Good Signs from Game One
Yes, I’m still basking in the glow of first place and undefeated status. It may disappear quickly, so let’s take a look at some positive signs while we still can …
Johan Santana’s Slider
He didn’t have his best stuff, but he had “good enough” stuff and allowed only one run through six. His velocity wasn’t as high as we’d like, but it’s early — he should add a few MPH as the season wears on. More importantly, his slider had great bite, the kind of bite we haven’t seen from him since he one-hit the Mets in 2007. His efficiency was nowhere near what it was in that particular game, which is the only pebble in my shoe concerning Santana — ever since Dan Murphy muffed a fly ball around this time last year, it seems like Johan has been trying to retire hitters with swings and misses rather than rely on the defense.
In any case, after seeing him flat-out dominate during the first few months of 2009 with a weak elbow and a so-so slider, it’s scary to think how good Johan will be this year “fully loaded”. Halladay, Shmalladay.
David Wright’s Big Cuts
Last year, Wright publicly admitted to cutting down his stroke and trying to go the other way in response to the vast expanse of Citi Field. He was clearly taking controlled cuts in hitter’s counts, looking to drive the ball on a line rather than lift it — and it wasn’t a terrible idea, as he looked like a viable candidate to win the batting title during the first half of the year. However, it also resulted in a major drop in homeruns. This year, we’re already seeing Wright take MONSTER cuts in hitter’s counts — and he’s already gone yard once. I also really like his swing plane; I wish I had access to video to illustrate, but I’ll try to explain. Basically, he’s starting his hands from a high position near his ear, and driving the knob of the bat down toward the ground, which keeps the barrel above the hands and sends the hands to the ball quicker and more efficiently than pushing the knob toward the pitcher, dropping the barrel prematurely, and “flattening” the swing. That minor detail allows a hitter to get around quickly on inside heat.
Jason Bay’s Game-yness
I’ve been crying for a “gamer” since the winter of 2006. Besides carrying the heavy lumber into the lineup, Jason Bay brings that extra edge of grit and spirited play that the Beaneheads like to scoff and the old schoolers adore. Though intangibles may never be objectively measured, as a fan I immensely enjoy watching a player like Bay hustling his butt all over the place, diving for balls, getting dirty, and looking like he’d stampede his grandma if she were blocking home plate.
Jeff Francoeur’s Attitude
I can’t argue with the statheads on this one — Jeff Francoeur is likely to do a lot of whiffing and unlikely to take many free passes. He’s probably overrated. I don’t care. I like watching him play, I like listening to him in interviews, and I believe that his bantering with the media will take a load of pressure off David Wright. I may feel differently if he’s hitting .220 in late June, but until then I’ll sit back and enjoy watching Francoeur — he looks good in a Met uniform.
David Wright’s Leadership
Based on comments from other players after Opening Day, it sounds like this is finally beginning to be “David’s Team”. That’s a good sign to me because it hasn’t been anyone’s team for too long … and as a result the team has been like a rudderless ship.
Fernando Nieve as the Bridge
I’ve said it before, and saying it again: I like Fernando Nieve in the late innings of a winnable game. His heavy sinker and strikethrowing is blind to a hitter’s handedness, and translates well to a setup role. His first appearance of the year may have been stress-free, but it was encouraging nonetheless.
It’s only been one game, and one game does not make a season. But there were some really good things happening in Flushing on April 5th — things we hope to see for another 161 games.