Mets Game 10: Loss to Rockies

Rockies 7 Mets 6

The good news: Mets #1 pitcher Mike Pelfrey made it past the fifth inning. The bad news: he didn’t make it much further, and had to give up the ball to the beleaguered Mets bullpen, which continues to struggle — both as pitchers and as fielders.

Game Notes

Pelfrey wasn’t great, but his outing was encouraging compared to his first two starts of the year. He struck out 3 and allowed 4 runs (3 earned) on 6 hits and 4 walks in 5 1/3 innings, expending 113 pitches. He labored through every inning.

Bobby Parnell would be a pretty good pitcher if he could throw strikes, not throw the ball away on 40-foot throws to home, and not give up home runs.

All kidding aside, Parnell’s body language and facial expressions evoke a lack of confidence. It may be time to send him down to AAA to build up his psyche.

Jason Isringhausen appeared as a Met for the first time in a dozen years, and received a rousing ovation from the five thousand people in the stands at Citi Field. He did a nice job of pitching out of a jam left behind by Tim Byrdak in the seventh.

OK, there were more than five thousand people in the crowd, but for such a warm and inviting spring evening, the seats were sparsely filled.

Pedro Beato was impressive again in his first-ever Citi Field appearance, setting down the Rox in order in the top of the ninth to preserve the one-run deficit, humming his fastball at 95-96 MPH.

The Mets executed their first “wheel play” on a bunt since 1976, when Felix Millan, Bud Harrelson, and Roy Staiger pulled it off.

Jose Reyes electrified the park with two triples on the night. However, he didn’t draw any walks, so I don’t see any reason for the Mets to try to extend his contract.

David Wright hit a solo homer in the eighth to give the Mets a chance, but it was too little, too late.

The Mets had three leads and the Rockies none until the top of the 8th, when the Rox finally went ahead and stayed ahead.

During the third inning, there was much discussion in the SNY booth about the relationship between Josh Thole and Mike Pelfrey and game calling in general. Ron Darling was adamant about his feeling that the pitcher should be in charge of what pitches should be called — “large and in charge” was a term he borrowed from Bobby Ojeda. Generally speaking, I disagree with Darling — the last thing the pitcher should be concerned about is what pitch he should be throwing to the batter, because it is the catcher’s job to know what pitch should be called. Why? Three reasons specifically: 1) the catcher should know most if not all the hitters inside and out — since he sees them every day rather than one in every five days; 2) the catcher should be paying attention to what each batter is doing on that particular day, and pick up on things that can be seen squatting next to each batter as opposed to standing 60 feet away; 3) the catcher can see how each pitch is coming in from the batter’s perspective, which is very different from the pitcher’s viewpoint. There are other reasons as well, but these are the main ones. Further, most pitchers can’t repeat their mechanics and release point as consistently as they need to, and by taking the mental load of game pitch calling off the pitcher’s mind, the pitcher can spend more focus on getting the right delivery and release point. When it comes right down to it, the pitch that is chosen is not nearly as important as the pitcher EXECUTING that pitch.

That’s not to say that a pitcher should never be thinking about the next pitch or setting up a hitter — nor that a pitcher should throw a pitch he’s uncomfortable throwing — but for the most part, a pitcher will pitch his best when he follows the orders of a catcher who can call a good game.

By the way, I should add that most people inside baseball considered Ron Darling as one of the most talented pitchers of his time, but didn’t come close to realizing his potential because he was a “head case” — i.e., he thought too much. He was still a good pitcher — a few years, a very good pitcher — but many feel he could have been much, much better had he not spent so much of his energy and concentration over-thinking things.

Four years ago I stated that Troy Tulowitzki would be a Gold Glover and was a “star in the making“. He’s fulfilled both prophecies, making me look smart (of course, I was not the only one who felt that way back then). His jump-and-throw play on a Dan Murphy ground ball with two outs and Jose Reyes on third to end the inning was spectacular and clutch. Oh, and then there was that two-run homer in the 8th to give the Rockies a 7-4 lead (and would eventually be the difference-making clout of the ballgame).

The Mets have lost 6 of their last 7 games.

Next Mets Game

The Mets and Rockies do it again at 7:10 PM on Tuesday night. Jonathon Niese takes the hill against Esmil Rogers.

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. Izzy April 12, 2011 at 7:39 am
    Darling also criticized Pelfrey for selling Thole out in public. We can argue about who should call the pitches forever, but Pelfrey is supposed to be the ace and he acted like the spoiled kid. Not a good thing for an ace. Did Seaver sell Grote out? I don’t remember.
    As for Parnell, if he is out of confidence in 10 games, and I agree with your evaluation of him, then its probably time to find a new home for him. Maybe he can become the next Heath Bell. He’ll be sent down and Acosta will be brought back in a few days. However, Sandy Alderson was happy he was able to keep all his relievers. Unfortunately, he was able to keep them because they all are crappy pitchers.
  2. Joe April 12, 2011 at 8:25 am
    Dan Murphy was pretty good too. If the team is going to be bad, having SOMEONE to root for is nice.

    The wheel play was telling. They made the play and the hope (forlorn or not) is that it will be something for their toolbox in the future. But, you really got to laugh, Reyes still messed up. The Rockies still got a man on 2nd and 3rd, which is after all what the Mets wanted to avoid. And, scored with the extra out.

    That is why Parnell didn’t pitch on Sunday. If he actually didn’t look like Heilman on a bad day out there, overwork might not have been an issue.

    So, they bring a guy up and he walks the first guy, flubs a 1-2-3 double play and gives up two runs. Oh, for at least the third time in a short season, the opposing pitcher got a key hit that lead to run(s). I would suggest a drinking game for the Mets, but there are so many options, it’s hard to decide the rules.

    • Joe April 12, 2011 at 8:26 am
      Sorry. The Rockies did score with an extra out, but not there. They scored there with the extra base.
  3. Walnutz15 April 12, 2011 at 9:29 am
    A lot has also been made (and dismissed in many cases where “stat-heads” like to justify everything with plain ol’ numbers) of how Pelfrey — and pitchers in general — sometimes work with “unfamiliar” or “less experienced” catchers.

    Looks like we’re going to have this wrinkle thrown into the fray this year, too with Pelfrey/Thole. This has been evident from the early goings, but we’re seeing/hearing more about it each time they work together.

    Without having the splits handy, I think it has always been clear that Pelfrey’s been at his best when working with veteran catchers (Schneider/Blanco)…..essentially, guys who call his games/pitch selection for him.

    A blanket statement, for certain — but we’re seeing that he’s essentially citing that Thole’s calling for pitches he’s not comfortable throwing.

    No excuse for a “veteran” pitcher – I use that term loosely with Pelf, but — as we both know, Joe….a catcher has to work to his pitcher’s strengths as well.

    Further proof that Pelf’s all over the joint when it comes to taking the hill…..and that it could potentially be compounded in working with Thole; who’s still making his way in The Bigs, to boot.

    These 120-pitch, 5+ Inning-type outings are not going to fly….and if we think the bullpen’s bad NOW (in April) — what’s it going to look like with extended use by the time May rolls around.

    Questions generally reserved for The Dog Days, are already being contemplated.

    NOT GOOD!!

    Away from Pelf’s continuous struggles:

    I was very curious to see what the attendance would look like last night. Figured it would have been a ghost-town…and it was.

    Monday night, coming off a bad loss — beautiful near-80 degree night in NYC.

    This is what happens when there’s so many other options in New York. As much as baseball “is what it is” – synonymous with beautiful, warm summer evenings — nobody likes to come out and support a disingenuous, half-arsed product.

    Started a couple of years ago, and will be going through growing pains now. Expected, but at the same time – who’s going to be paying premium pricetags to support it?

    Truth be told, it’s pretty horrible to see 6 people sitting behind home plate at the 2nd game of the year. Things like this are reasons why the Wilpons will ultimately have to sell.

    No one’s buying a 25% stake of The Titanic…..and that’s what really scares me, heading into next year “and beyond” with this ballclub.

    As someone who will always find a reason to watch the Mets:

    I’ve been APPALLED by the pitching — the number of strikeouts from the hitters — weak situational hitting, period — and flat out sloppy defensive plays we’ve witnessed in the first 10 games.

    Please play better…’s not much to be asking.

    I’m a die-hard, and I’m looking for a team to “play harder” for me……this has been pathetic at every turn.

    • Joe April 12, 2011 at 9:59 am
      “this has been pathetic at every turn”

      Yes, when Jeff F. is having a better time of it playing for the Kansas City Royals, well, trouble.

    • gary s. April 12, 2011 at 10:18 am
      Walnutz, i always enjoy reading your posts.I am trying hard not to let apathy set in after 10 games, but this is a bad team.I said a few games back that the buillpen will break the record for innings pitched in the history of mlb.None of our starters eat innings and it was a joke for collins to say Pelfrey was better coming off a 113 pitch, 4 walk 5 inning start last nite,If not for citicavern, the rockies would have homered 3 times last nite.One other thing, regarding tickets, if any of the posters want to attend a game, use stubhub.Do not buy tickets off for all seats are at firesale prices on stubhub.It appears the wilpons are dumping club tickets on Stubhub for 50-75 per cent off to get some fannies in the seats and to pay for overpriced tickets and food and tee shirts.Off course, at the same time the mets ticket people are calling fans and asking them to pay full value for ticket packages.The “ship be sinkin” folks ..
  4. Walnutz15 April 12, 2011 at 10:04 am
    Well, put it this way – Stenchy’s only HR came off another Met-outcast….Hisanori Takahashi.

    Glad we didn’t decide to keep either of them around — ditto, Petey Feliciano.

    Just goes to show you what an overpaid hodge-podge of players we began to employ….I can’t call it a team.

    ….still can’t – and am hoping for the day to come soon, where I can say I’m proud of the Mets again.

  5. Mic April 12, 2011 at 10:35 am
    1. Agreed Parnall needs to see AAA again, (and Ricky Bones).

    2. Pelfrey i think has hopefully punched his ticket.
    Shame we could not get a minor league deal for millwood or Silva.

    3. Keep it going Murph. I’m out on a long tree limb……BUT Sandy, look to trade DW, Put Murph at 3rd and possible deal for Michael Young.

    • Andy April 12, 2011 at 1:41 pm
      Wow, that is total fire-sale thinking, but it may be worth it if it means re-stocking the anemic farm system . . .
  6. Mic April 12, 2011 at 10:38 am
  7. xDanTanna April 12, 2011 at 11:38 am
    I could take the easy way out here & criticize Terry Collins once again here for a couple things. But, when you hear players on the post game saying; “we are playing good baseball & the people watching can see that” What ?

    Maybe we do need to clean house completely and start over. How about being honest w/ yourself for once & admit 4-6 is not good baseball. When your losing 2 of 3 to the Nats on opening weekend at home. That is not good baseball. When you lose 5 of 6, however many games you might be in. That is not good baseball. I have a pretty good idea where this attitude comes from. But, why does it still exist today? Why is it allowed to exist?

    You can show fight & that is great & all. But, the fight has to be fight that gets you over the hump to win a ballgame, otherwise it is fruitless fight.

  8. Jay from Cuse April 12, 2011 at 1:27 pm
    Did anyone honestly expect anything less then mediocre ball right now?

    I figured this was comming for two reasons: 1. it’s still early (I know that only lasts so long but I’ll give it till May 1) 2. This is a hodge-podge bullpen that needs some time to gel. (again I realize they only have so long)

    The real suprise to me so far, has been the Mets hitting, we’re third in the NL in team batting and were driving in runs. Could it be better? Yes, of course, but it’s a good sign at least that it’s not an anemic lineup and anemic pitching right?

    While I’m extremely skeptical with Terry Collins, (looking at the litlle “letter” I got from him make’s me laugh so hard right now.) I think we’ll start playing slightly better. Not win the East or Wildcard better but simply respectable baseball.

  9. Chris from Freehold April 12, 2011 at 2:41 pm
    I expected mediocre baseball – especially after being inundated this off season with Omar post mortems, Madoff related articles, etc…

    After watching last night’s game, however, I sort of had a minor epiphany (not to mention a major bout of indigestion). The REAL reason we are mediocre is that while we have some really good players (e.g., Wright w/ homer/sac fly, Reyes w/ 2 triples), we just don’t have any TRULY great players (e.g., Tulo backhand, 2 run dinger.) I understand that we’re financially strapped, our bullpen sucks, we’ve had too many injuries to too many important players, etc….I’m so tired of the excuses. We need someone who makes a big play at the critical time on a relatively consistent basis. Until we get a couple of those players, I’m gonna continue to expect mediocrity. (And if a fire sale is needed to find them, sign me up.)

    By the way Joe – I think what Darling was really trying to say was that Pelfrey rarely waives his catcher off. Not that he should actually be calling the game…

  10. Jim April 12, 2011 at 4:26 pm
    I disagree about the catcher being in charge. The pitcher is the one responsible for the ball thrown, not the catcher, and the pitcher should have the confidence to throw that pitch.

    Also, I don’t ever recall yelling at the TV, “Dammit, Carter, why did you make Gooden throw that pitch?” But I’ve often asked, “Why did you throw that, Doc?” when a punch and judy hitter knocked one out. The pitcher is ultimately responsible for the ball, not the catcher, so he should be “large and in charge”.

    • Joe Janish April 13, 2011 at 12:02 am
      Jim, we’ll agree to disagree.

      The way I see it, the pitcher’s responsibility is to execute the pitch — not choose it. Somewhat similar to a soldier’s responsibility to carry out the sergeant’s commands.

      Funny, when I watch a game and I see a poorly called pitch — or more frequently, a poorly set location — I scream at the TV, “catcher, what the heck are you thinking? why would you call that pitch / that location in that situation?”. So I suppose it’s all about perspective.

  11. wohjr April 12, 2011 at 4:31 pm
    Excellent point made above about Tulo… truly a great player who makes it happen in the big moment, in the field AND at the dish. DW is and always has been a second banana. The question is whether Sandy and co will realize that and trade him before the rest of the league does. Sorry folks, but the window for contention is rapidly moving beyond DW’s useful years…. trade him now for arms, I beg you
    • Joe April 12, 2011 at 4:44 pm
      What do you think you will get for David Wright? No snark intended. Just curious.

      I disagree with the “great player” comment above somewhat. I expected a mediocre year. But, that’s .500 ball with the pen giving up runs and inconsistent hitting. It isn’t error after error or not being able to bunt or having the Nats hold you from getting a hit for innings on end.

      A team with good players who play good ball is possible w/o greatness. Niese isn’t great. He had a good game though even if he ran into the buzzsaw of the Phillies in his second game. More than I can say about Pelfrey.

      • wohjr April 12, 2011 at 5:04 pm
        OK so this one might be a little off the wall but how about this…

        DW to the As for Kouzmanoff, Brett Anderson and the shortstop prospect green. Or another arm instead of green. Or Kouzmanoff plus 3 prospects– say green and two arms. If the As are in it come July, they’d at least have to think about it, right…?

        • Jay from Cuse April 12, 2011 at 6:25 pm
          You can’t trade Wright. Look, yes hes not Mr. Clutch all the time and his plate discipline has turned atrocious his last two seasons. But we’d never get his worth back in a trade.

          The A’s? Okay hypothetically lets say they give us Anderson, Green, and Kouz face. Kouz is a significant decline in fielding at 3b (Wright is a + defender), his plate discipline is atrocious (more so then Wright) and he’s in gerneral an average at best player. Andersonis a legit pitcher and will be a bonafide ace someday, but Green from all reports ive ever seen hes Tulo lite, range (laterally is’nt there (yet) and again is Tulo-lite at the plate.

          So we significantly down grade at 3b, get a semi decent but not great ss prospect and a young Ace pitcher who could go through some growing pains that you want to let Dan Warthen mess with?

          I’m sorry Wright is worth more to the Mets than that in my opinion, I could only see Reyes going for an Ace and a SS prospect.

        • Chris from Freehold April 12, 2011 at 9:28 pm
          I bought both of my daughters DW jerseys. And I agree that Wright has more value to the franchise than just his production. I don’t want to trade him (or Reyes) for that matter.

          Last night I saw both guys do their best to help the team win (notwithstanding Reyes’ error on the wheel play.) We still lost.

          I think Gary mentioned last night that the Rocks got Carlos Gonzalez and Huston Street from the A’s for Matt Holliday, Q: Were they just lucky?

        • Joe Janish April 13, 2011 at 12:17 am
          Generally speaking, no matter what it is in life that is discussed, luck is best defined by Seneca: when preparation meets opportunity.

          I think the Rockies did a great job of scouting the A’s minor league system (and other teams’ systems) when they made the Holliday deal — which at the time, was somewhat criticized on both sides. And they had the opportunity to trade Holliday to the A’s; in contrast, look at when the Twins traded Johan Santana — they had only about 3 or at most 4 options, and once the Bosox and Yankees bowed out of the competition, they were pretty much stuck with the Mets and maybe one other big-payroll club (Cubs? Dodgers?).

          You might say there was some luck involved, but I think the Rox simply did a great job of evaluating the options they had, and made an informed decision.

          For the Mets to pull off a similar deal for Wright, they would have to have great scouts who did a great job of evaluating opposing teams’ talent.

        • Chris from Freehold April 13, 2011 at 8:25 am
          The point I was making, Joe, was that in this case at least, Wright and Reyes did NOT fail. They both succeeded, in the EXACT SAME GAME, and we still lost! That was when the proverbial light bulb finally went off in my head, and the result is this: I am NOT going to criticize Sandy when the fire sale starts, regardless of who is involved. Who knows, maybe in two years we’ll have a starting rotation of Harvey, Neise, Meija, and two young studs we’ve never heard of before. We will have a chance to be “great” just as the Phillies are getting old.

          Btw – Mets fan since Don Clendenon days. Loved the DUPACR stuff. Keep up great work.

      • Joe Janish April 13, 2011 at 12:09 am
        I also disagree with the “great” player comment, but for an additional reason: I think the Mets have some “great” players in Wright and Reyes, and to some extent, Beltran (who was more “great” before the injuries). We have seen all three of those players make great, clutch plays at different times over the past few seasons. But, because we watch them 162 times a year, we also see them fail more frequently than we see them succeed, and the failures tend to stick in our memories — particularly when a team stinks.

        And I agree with everyone who believes Wright will not and cannot be traded — he is far too valuable to the franchise above and beyond on-field production. If he does get swapped, it will set the franchise rebuilding project back another 2-3 years and it will guarantee record lows in attendance for the near future. Remember the Mets will be without Reyes and Beltran in 2011, so Wright is the closest thing they will have to a true “draw” (unless Ike Davis keeps up his current pace and turns into a superstar this year).

  12. argonbunnies April 13, 2011 at 6:34 am
    About pitch-calling: when a poor location is chosen, I yell at the TV. Whether I yell the name of the catcher or the pitcher depends on whether any shake-offs were involved.

    It annoys me when catchers just do whatever the pitcher wants, instead of going out to the mound and saying, “Listen, meat, there’s a reason I called for that.”

    That said, every interview I’ve read with a modern catcher makes it seem like they view their job as pitcher psychologists foremost and strategists second. Even Varitek said, “The most important thing is that the pitcher feel comfortable and confident with what he’s throwing on each pitch.” In context, it sounded like, “If he wants to throw all fastballs, okay by me, as long as he feels good about them!” What crap.

    The happiest I’ve been with pitch-calling by a Mets catcher was LoDuca. Every other catcher has consistently set up exactly where the hitter should be looking. “Low and away with 2 strikes? Gasp!” But even LoDuca let Mota throw his macho fastball to a hitter who couldn’t hit his change-up, and it cost us the 2006 pennant.

    As for Thole, I’ve been underwhelmed thus far, but maybe once he’s more confident in the obvious, he’ll start being more creative. Calling for Niese’s cutter 3 times against Polanco in an RBI spot was a clear mistake. Niese has the stuff to get that out. Pelfrey, well, ya work with what ya got…

    • Joe Janish April 13, 2011 at 10:32 am
      I would agree that being an amateur psychologist is a big part of the catcher’s job in handling pitchers. But if a catcher believes that means he should be giving in to what the pitcher wants to throw, then that’s incorrect. It should be a balance of strategy and psychology. From my experience (as a catcher and as someone coaching both catchers and pitchers), it can take a while for a pitcher to gain a catcher’s trust, but once that trust is built, the pitcher will go with the catcher’s calls almost completely, and then the psychology aspect is more about keeping confidence high.
      • argonbunnies April 13, 2011 at 5:15 pm
        Yeah! “Having confidence in a pitch” shouldn’t just be “because the pitcher got to pick it”. It should be an attitude that stays constant regardless of which pitch or location is chosen.

        The thing is, this seems 100% on the pitcher to me. You think Santana ever threw a pitch with doubt in his mind? You think Pelfrey ever threw one without doubt in his mind? I’m not sure how the catcher could matter to this in the middle of a game.

        Talking enough pre-game to inspire trust in a game plan seems like the majority of it to me. I mean, I guess a few, “Your stuff is awesome, let’s kick some ass!” trips to the mound don’t hurt, but that seems kinda trivial among professionals, right?

  13. argonbunnies April 13, 2011 at 6:47 am
    As for the team overall, every team has some crappy relievers and some crappy fielding by relievers. No biggie. What I’d really like to see is better ABs in clutch spots. Stop striking out with guys on 3rd and 1 out, stop taking huge rips with the tying run on 2nd, etc.

    Hairston looked so under control in spring training, and is now trying to pull the ball out of the stadium on every swing. It’s like he was suddenly infected with Mets Desperation or something.

    • Joe Janish April 13, 2011 at 10:35 am
      Hairston’s issues could also be related to the fact he’s no longer facing minor league pitchers and MLB pitchers “working on new things” or “just getting the fastball going”.
  14. Walnutz15 April 13, 2011 at 10:41 am
    I think Hairston will probably grab himself a start this evening, given the weather. It’d be prudent to get him a handful of AB’s, while saving Beltran from slipping/tripping/or straining anything in a wet outfield.

    Curious to see how Collins will go about this; especially since it becomes a pretty weak lineup with both Harris and Hairston in it.

    It’s what they’ll have to do, though – if they’re smart (IMHO) and are serious about wanting to keep Beltran around for awhile.