Terry Collins’ Most Telling Move of the Game

It’s not fair to nitpick Terry Collins’ strategical decisions in the first game of the year, and his first game managing in the bigs in a dozen years. And in fact, I’m not sure he made any poor choices during the contest, but there was one move that was particularly “telling”.

The move in question was pointed out in the Game 1 comments section by MetsToday reader “Izzy”:

Most telling move of the night was Collins giving Thole the hook for a PH. If this is the guy we’ve been reading so much positive stuff about, he should be given at least one chance to hit a lefty, shouldn’t he?

Izzy has a point here. While from any manager’s standpoint, the move made plenty of sense, it also is “telling” in that it displayed how the Mets plan to handle Josh Thole — in the near term, at least.

To refresh your memory, the score was 5-2 with men on first and second with two outs and Thole scheduled to hit. Hard-throwing LOOGY Mike Dunn came in to face Thole, who has a career .158 AVG / .411 OPS against lefthanded pitchers. Collins sent up the righthanded-hitting Scott Hairston to pinch-hit.

It made perfect sense from many angles. Statistically, Hairston was the better match-up. Further, Hairston was hitting like Barry Bonds in March, and Collins was hoping for the long ball in that situation.

But the move also suggested that Thole would be used in platoon role, rather than as a true starting catcher. Maybe we knew this all along, but there are many fans out there with hopes that the team would allow Thole to take his lumps against lefties, so that he might one day be able to hit them with better frequency. Instead, we can likely expect to see Ronny Paulino used against most if not all LHPs once he returns healthy, and we will probably see Thole removed in similar situations in the near future.

Of course, this can change as the season goes along. But will Thole get the chance to prove he can hit lefties anytime soon?

What do you think? Should Thole be given opportunities vs. lefties in big situations, particularly right now while the team waits for Paulino?

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. Ethan April 2, 2011 at 12:28 pm
    I did not get to see the game last night, but thole isnt going to hit many homeruns. Hairston has more pop and so it makes perfect sense to pinch hit. I dont think this necessarily means Thole wont play agaisnt LHP’s. I think in this scenario Collins wanted a better chance to even the score. Isnt that what we want from our manager, to give us the best chance to win?
  2. srt April 2, 2011 at 12:40 pm
    Hindsight is always 20/20. I see that comment Izzy made was after the fact – after Hairston failed to drive in any runners in that at bat.

    Agree with Ethan above.

    • Izzy April 2, 2011 at 3:18 pm
      Gee, my comment was after the fact!!!!!! Were you with me at the time SRT to see what my comment was before the fact!! NO… I complained at the instant Hairston came up. You Sir, owe an apology.
    • Joe Janish April 2, 2011 at 11:10 pm
      Izzy’s comment had NOTHING to do with the end result — the point is that Collins / Mets mgmt. does not have confidence that Thole can hit LHPs.
  3. Bubb April 2, 2011 at 1:00 pm
    Platooning is a good thing for so many reasons. Why are you and so many others against it? Anyway it doesnt look like we’re going to see much of Paulino for quite a while so Thole (the new Murphy?) should get plenty of chances against lefties.
    • Joe Janish April 2, 2011 at 11:14 pm
      Jeff Torborg’s Master thesis was on the value of platooning — so right there I’m skeptical.

      In all seriousness, I’m curious to hear just a few of the “so many reasons” platooning is a good thing.

      Thole has a very short stroke and is a somewhat defensive, contact hitter. Based on that he has the potential to be fairly equal vs. lefties and righties if given the chance.

      Here’s a reason why platooning is NOT a good thing: it requires more personnel, which therefore is inefficient. With 12-man (or 13-man) pitching staffs, you need as much efficiency as possible when it comes to position players. If you have specialists who can only hit certain -handers, then you are handcuffing yourself in terms of roster space.

  4. AC Wayne April 2, 2011 at 1:05 pm
    I was scratching my head on that one as well, when will Thole face lefties?

    I feel that if Hairston had gotten a hit, Mets fans wouldn’t have thought twice about it.

    Another angle, Nickeas replaced Thole at catcher in the bottom of the 7th and was crossed up allowing the runner to advance.

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  5. mrtasan April 2, 2011 at 1:25 pm
    yes i found it odd they took him out so early in the game, in game 1! i thought collins was a rah rah manager…
  6. Connor April 2, 2011 at 2:13 pm
    The move was very telling of how Terry will manage this year. There were two men on with two outs. That’s a situation where you need some power. Scott Hairston is a power hitter. He may have struck out, but the move made sense. Besides, Nickeas’ defense was good.
    • Izzy April 2, 2011 at 3:23 pm
      A power hitter??? amazing.. The man never hit 20 HRs in a season and now he’s a power hitter because he spent March looking like Butch Huskey!!!!! I’m sure you would have been in total awe of this move if the Mets would have had the fortune of having Mickeas batting as the tying run in the 9th inning.
      • Connor April 2, 2011 at 6:45 pm
        I don’t mean POWER HITTER. What I meant to say was a nice bat with some pop off the bench. He has the most pop among bench players on the Mets. That was what I said. You don’t have to be so nasty about it.
  7. David April 2, 2011 at 3:25 pm
    Thole had a pulled thing muscle, as reported on WFAN. The move wasn’t because Collins thought Thole couldn’t hit lefties.
    • Joe Janish April 2, 2011 at 11:17 pm
      I did not hear that report and have been unable to confirm it anywhere in print. I don’t doubt you heard it, but I doubt that it was the truth, since Thole played all 10 innings of Saturday night’s game.
  8. Alex April 2, 2011 at 3:41 pm
    I’m sure Thole will have plenty of opportunities to hit against lefties throughout the course of the season. However, in that particular instance against a lefty who apparently has really good stuff, I had no problem pinch-hitting Hairston in that spot.
  9. Mike April 2, 2011 at 4:02 pm
    This can only be seen as a sign because it was the first decision TC had to make. On his first night, I’m sure he was resigned to err on the side of “the book.” I really think we will see Thole make the # of starts/week we normally see starting catchers make. His off days will be worked to make sure he isn’t missing chances against righties, but he will make that number of starts. This may be a sign that, until Thole proves otherwise in the less-crucial at bats v. lefties he will be given by virtue of him being the starter, TC will go to a right handed bat in high leverage situations late in games. If it is, I have no problem with that strategy.
    • Joe Janish April 2, 2011 at 11:20 pm
      So with that you are of the opinion that short-term goals — such as winning 80-85 games this year and falling short of the playoffs but selling tickets — is more important than the long-term goals, such as of developing a complete hitter who can hit both righties and lefties?

      Let’s be realistic: the Mets have zero chance of making the playoffs this year. Most if not all moves and decisions should be based on long-term. I don’t even know why people like Hairston and Harris are on the roster.

  10. Marathon Met April 2, 2011 at 4:16 pm
    Just to point out that it was at least TC second move. The first being to start Harris and bat him second. Both moves were apparently founded on numbers (most probably the numbers backed up his experience/hunch/idea). One payed off (Harris lead off double), the other didn’t hurt. I approve.
  11. Steve in Australia April 3, 2011 at 9:11 am
    I remember at the time I was disappointed Thole was pulled in that situation because I really wanted to see if he would come through in the clutch. I have very high hopes for him, as I do for Ike.
  12. pfh64 April 3, 2011 at 9:34 am
    Thole has to be left in to hit…end of story. He is either your starter or he is not. Lefties need to hit against them or they will never. You want to take a lefty out against John Candelaria,, fine…not sure Dunn is the Candy Man. How did Willie Harris do?
  13. paul April 4, 2011 at 2:39 pm
    I think it’ll be really telling if TC puts Nickeas in tomorrow when they face Cole Hamels.
    • Joe Janish April 4, 2011 at 10:17 pm
      Interesting thought. I will be stunned if Nickeas gets a start. And I agree, it will be EXTREMELY telling if he gets one vs. Hamels.