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.

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. Mike April 7, 2010 at 10:21 am
    Since I’ve started reading MetsToday this is by a wide margin the most positive post. Not that Joe is a Debbie Downer, or that he is trying to bash the Mets, but typically things in Mets-land have not been happy for a few years and Joe speaks truths. I could get used to the new positive Joe, because that means the Mets are on the right track.

    I may be the only one but except for the inexcusable presence of Mejia I am fairly okay with the look of the pen. That 80% of it, including Mejia, can go more than a few batters and even a few innings is something not often done but completely necessary for this team. I like the idea of Nieve coming in the 7th and staying for the 8th with no need for an extra day afterward or Takahashi being equally likely to start a game in a spot or pitch the 6th and 7th innings. As Bobby O said: let the roles define themselves.

  2. Mark April 7, 2010 at 3:29 pm
    I completely agree on all counts. Simply knowing that Santana can fully extend his arm and is once again capable of throwing his slider will definitely help to keep hitters off balance. (Apparently, word had gotten around the league last year that he was no longer throwing it). I also thought that Barajas looks like he may be a pleasant surprise with the bat (considering a lot of people are expecting absolutely nothing other than a ton of whiffs).

    One thought re: Mejia. I am not as worried as most about the pen. I guess I figure that pitchers like Nieve should be adequate in these roles. I am greatly troubled, however, by the inclusion of Mejia who should be in the minors working on his secondary stuff to develop into a SP (where he is the most valuable for the organization, over the long hall). Then, come July, when one of Maine, Pelf or Ollie either breaks down or has a melt down, you can have Mejia as a potential alternative (either that, or he becomes part of your rotation in 2011). It just doesn’t make sense to use him as a middle reliever now.

  3. LibertyBoy April 7, 2010 at 4:36 pm
    Oh sure, blame Dan Murphy. Johan Santana, 2-time CYA winner, will never be the same after a Merf flub.

    On the other hand, I’m already experiencing PTSD from the “Murphy Era” and I’m not even a Met fan. Omar, make it stop!