How Axl Rose Can Help the Mets
Last night when Tom Glavine walked out to the mound, he had the wrong Guns N Roses song playing. Instead of Sweet Child O’ Mine, it should have been Patience.
Yes, the Mets won the game, and they won on Monday as well. But their offense is still atrocious — they’ve accumulated only 6 runs and 11 hits in their last 27 innings of play. In 26 innings pitched against them, they’ve seen a total of 387 pitches — which comes out to an average of just under 15 pitches per inning (14.8 to be exact).
To get an idea of where this 14.8 pitches per inning falls in the grand scheme of things, consider this: the San Diego Padres pitching staff leads all of MLB with only 15.2 pitches/IP. The highest p/IP is 17.4 (Texas Rangers).
Back in the old days, the goal of a pitcher was to average 15 pitches per inning. If a pitcher could keep that kind of effiiciency, he’d likely be strong enough to remain in the game through nine innings (135 pitches total). Today, of course, everyone is on a 100-pitch count, and most blow through that allotment within 6 innings — an average of 16-17 pitches per inning. So the Mets are giving the opposition anywhere from 2-4 pitches per inning.
This doesn’t seem like a big deal until you continue with the math. Three “saved” pitches times
five innings equals 15 — which is an extra inning of work for the starter, and one less inning the opposing team has to cover with their worst pitchers (middle relief). Not to mention that the defense is spending less time on the field — and therefore more alert and ready to make good plays.
On occasion, the Mets will practice patience, but it hasn’t happened consistently since April. Even first-pitch swinging Damion Easley was uncharacteristically taking strikes in both of his at-bats last night. However, those efforts were erased by the normally more patient Paul LoDuca, who seemed to be in a rush to get his at-bats over with. Then there’s the Jekyll and Hyde act of Jose Reyes, who will alternate “April” at-bats with “2003” at-bats. For example, he did a good job of taking pitches to lead off the game against the often-wild Anthony Reyes, but because he got burned — falling behind 0-2 — he vacated the plan in subsequent at-bats.
Of course, there is the thought that it is better to be aggressive, to take advantage of good pitches to hit early in counts. Though that strategy may work on occasion, it’s not productive over the long haul. (I can smell the sabermetricians’ calculators simmering now … no doubt someone will prove me wrong with some graphs or stat sheets.) While I’m not advocating the idea of keeping the bat on the shoulder simply to run up pitch counts, it would certainly behoove the Mets batters to be a little more selective, particularly in the early innings. Forcing the starter to throw just an extra 2-3 pitches every inning may remove him from the game in a more timely fashion — with the bonus possibility of getting into a favorable (1-0, 2-0) hitting count.
Maybe Axl Rose isn’t the guy to listen to for baseball advice. What about Ted Williams? Williams was a staunch advocate of taking the first pitch of an at-bat, particularly in a batter’s first time up in a game, in order to get timing down, find the pitcher’s release point, and gauge the speed and movement of the ball. But why subscribe to the Splendid Splinter’s theories? He was only the last guy to hit .400 in a season, and owner of a career .344 average.
Maybe the Mets’ lack of patience has nothing to do with their horrendous hitting of late. Perhaps Willie Randolph is right — maybe the Mets have just run into a lot of really good pitching. But it sure is an amazing stroke of bad luck that future Hall-of-Famers such as Mike Maroth, Todd Wellemeyer, Scott Baker, Hong-Chih Kuo, Adam Eaton, and Chad Durbin all chose to pitch the best game of their life against the Mets recently.