Mets Game 89: Loss to Braves
Braves 6 Mets 1
Getting swept was not exactly the way the Mets wanted to start the second half.
Mets Game Notes
For the second consecutive start, Johan Santana was battered by the opposition. He had difficulty locating his fastball below the waist, and got away with high strikes the first time through the Braves lineup; the Atlanta hitters seemed surprised to see fastballs up from Johan. However, they made the adjustment during the second go-around, and started hitting him. Compounding the situation was Santana allowing home plate umpire C.B. Bucknor to get into his head.
Through the first four frames, there were a number of close calls on the edges of the plate — as there are in just about any game. However, the close calls were being called strikes for Braves starter Ben Sheets, and usually called balls for Johan Santana. It didn’t seem that way, it WAS that way. But it wasn’t Bucknor holding something personal against Santana, and it wasn’t necessarily Bucknor “missing” the calls. It was the contrasting catching techniques used by Brian McCann and Josh Thole.
As he always does, McCann was “beating the ball to the spot” and catching pitches when they looked like strikes and “sticking them” — in other words, catching and holding the pitch momentarily to sell the pitch. Umpires like that and appreciate that. Most importantly, when a catcher does that, pitches look more like strikes than if they use the alternative method — also known as “framing.”
“Framing” is what Josh Thole does — on nearly every pitch. It seems to be a technique taught by the Mets organization, because I’ve seen other Mets catchers in the past employ the same nonsense. In “framing,” the catcher tries to “ease” pitches slightly off the plate into the strike zone by moving his glove AFTER catching the ball. At lower levels (little league, high school), with sometimes poorly trained, unprofessional umpires behind the plate, this method can often work. At the MLB level, it should never work. Yet, well over half of MLB catchers “frame.” Why? I guess because they did it their whole life. Also because there are still catching coaches who teach this technique, thinking that it works. Generally, it doesn’t. Catchers who do it, usually make the umpire look bad — especially from the perspective of the centerfield camera, which is already showing an untrue angle (slightly off-center). Framing also can make the pitcher think his pitches are closer than they really are. In some cases, a MLB umpire may automatically call “framed” pitches a ball, thinking that if the pitch has to be framed, it must not be a strike.
Bottom line is this: if a catcher beats the ball to the spot, catches it when it looks like a strike, and holds it, he’s giving the umpire the best possible view of the ball. If a catcher is moving his body and/or his glove as and/or after he catches the ball, he’s disrupting the umpire’s line of sight.
So, back to the game … Sheets was getting the close calls, Santana wasn’t. Santana didn’t get a few close ones in a row, and it ticked him off. Instead of focusing on the next pitch, he let the bad calls get under his skin. Then, as Santana was in the middle of delivering a pitch, Bucknor called time out at the request of the Braves hitter. It was a late time-out call, but, hey, he’s the umpire and can call time-out when he wants. That was the straw that broke Johan’s back, and he completely lost his composure. The Braves went on to score six runs, prompting Johan’s exit as well as Dan Warthen‘s, as Warthen went off on Bucknor and was tossed from the game.
Meanwhile, the Mets offense did nothing against Sheets, who won his first game since 2010. He had decent velocity — around 92 MPH — and his signature curveball had good 12-6 bite. We’ll see how long he stays healthy.