Mets vs. Nationals Notes
A few random notes pertaining to Tuesday’s spring training contest between the Mets and Nationals …
Dillon Gee‘s beard is weird. It’s downright silly, in fact. He looks like he’s trying out as an extra in a ZZ Top music video. That said, I hope he keeps it and allows it to grow longer.
In all seriousness re: Gee, it’s nice to see his fastball velocity sitting at 88-89 MPH right now — which is mid-season form. It means he’s in shape and ready to go, which means he likely put in some work before spring training began, which means he was motivated to earn the spot in the rotation that was more or less his to lose. In my worthless opinion, Gee needs to be forever motivated, and to work harder than everyone else, in order to succeed in MLB, because his talent is and skill set is below MLB-caliber. I say this as a compliment; in other words, he’s an overachiever. I like that he wasn’t afraid to pitch to contact in this outing, and got quick outs as a result. Gee may not ever be a Cy Young candidate, and he isn’t an ideal choice for a postseason start, but he’s a fighter, he’s smart enough to understand his limitations, and he’s learning to be savvy. My feeling is that good hitting teams will usually beat him, but he will dominate aggressive teams such as the spring training Nats. Of course, hitters tend to be more aggressive in March, but I’d like to point out that yesterday’s game was a an example of how Gee can and will feast on the vulnerability of free swingers. Hey, Tom Glavine won 300+ games with such a strength, and Jamie Moyer may pitch as a 50-year-old thanks to overly aggressive hitters. I’m not saying Gee will ever reach the levels of those men, but I do believe that if he continues to quietly improve, he will be a solid and coveted back-end starter — someone along the lines of a Bobby Jones.
Gee’s diametric opposite was on the mound for the Nationals — Stephen Strasburg, whose raw talent is downright frightening. Yet, the results of Strasburg’s performance were underwhelming. Even though Strasburg’s final line was pretty good — 5 innings, two hits, one run — considering his firepower, anything less than a no-hitter is a disappointment. That, my friends, is the power of expectations. You see this guy throwing lightning bolts and you expect opposing hitters to be completely overwhelmed; it’s a surprise anyone can manage a foul tip, much less a base hit. So when Strasburg gives up a solo homer it’s a stunner. In contrast, we expect to see Dillon Gee allow several hits and a few runs, and when he doesn’t, it’s a happy accident.
Speaking of solo homers off Stephen Strasburg, the one in this game was struck by Lucas Duda. I have to say I’m not entirely convinced one way or the other about Duda, in terms of whether he’ll succeed in 2012. On the one hand, I saw a hitter in 2011 who seemed raw and polished at the same time, and equipped with the tools necessary to be a legit middle-of-the-order MLB hitter. On the other hand, I wonder if 2011 was a Mike Vail-like mirage. Can Lucas pick up in ’12 where he left off in ’11? What happens when NL pitches find his vulnerabilities and adjust to him? Will he be able to adjust back? Memories of Vail, “Super” Joe Charboneau, Kevin Maas, Shane Spencer, Phil Plantier, and other half-season / one-season wonders make me cynical. But, seeing Duda connect against the Nats wunderkind was encouraging to say the least. And a bomb to the opposite field, no less!
Nice to see Ruben Tejada back in the lineup, moving in the field well and swinging the bat freely. He doesn’t look like he’s hurt, so hopefully he’s completely healed.
But as one Met returns, another leaves. Andres Torres left the game with a calf injury that may be worse than a minor day-to-day issue. I think it’s time to move Jason Bay to center; he did it in Pittsburgh and performed admirably. Bay won’t be a Gold Glover out there but he’ll hold his own. The way I see it, if Bay continues to not be the slugger we hoped he’d be, then perhaps the Mets can extract some value by placing him in a more premium position such as CF. I’m convinced he’ll look better than Adam Loewen in the middle of the outfield.
More things happened but I’ve rambled for too long already. What did you see in this game? Post your notes in the comments.