Mets Game 126: Loss to Astros

Astros 3 Mets 1

After 18 years managing in the minor leagues, Suffern High School grad and Seton Hall University alum Tony DeFrancesco finally won his first game as a MLB manager. Unfortunately, this is a Mets blog so this milestone doesn’t warm our hearts as much as we’d like it to for the local boy who done good.

Mets Game Notes

If you look at the boxscore only, it appears as though Jonathon Niese threw a good ballgame, and was a tough-luck loser. After all, he allowed just three runs on six hits and two walks in seven innings — and that’s a “quality start.” Indeed, it’s not every night that a MLB starter pitches seven strong innings, giving his team a chance to win the ballgame. But looking more closely, there were at least two things that made this a not-so-great pitching performance.

First of all, Niese faced a very, very bad Houston lineup. There were few, if any, legitimate Major Leaguer starters included in the lineup. I suppose the diminutive Jose Altuve counts — he’s hitting over .300, after all. Maybe you count Brett Wallace, who is trying to prove he’s not another AAAA slugger in the Val Pascucci mold. Finally, there’s Ben Francisco, who was a platoon player for the Phillies last year. And that’s about it; the rest of the batters, at best, should be playing AAA right now. So forgive me if I’m not so impressed with Niese’s performance.

The second issue is the way Niese looked on the mound. He didn’t have his best stuff, a point driven home about two dozen times by the SNY and WFAN announcers. His fastball velocity was in the 87-89 range, rarely cracking 90 MPH, and he looked exhausted from the first pitch of the ballgame. Every pitch he threw looked lazy — and that’s not to say HE looked lazy, just that his motion did (if that makes any sense). His throwing arm was lagging behind his body, and as a result many of his pitches were left up and away (to righthanded batters); this also was the reason for the lowered velocity. Additionally, and as often has been his issue, Niese’s arm angle was inconsistent, periodically dropping to almost sidearm, he was unable to keep his fingers on top of the ball at release, and his release point was usually occurring parallel to the rest of his body instead of in front of his body. Yes, he fought through it, and that’s the reason I love Niese — he’s a battler. But this habit of fatiguing with six weeks left in the regular season is becoming a part of Niese’s identity. In previous years there were excuses such as inexperience and injury, but this year, there is no excuse. Yet here we are, not yet September, and Niese is completely gassed. Could there be something wrong with his physical conditioning program? Is it a mental thing? Is there an injury?

Perhaps what’s most upsetting is that, after losing five straight — including four at home — and facing the worst team MLB has seen in ten years, we really needed to see Niese step up, dominate, put the team on his shoulders, and hand the Mets an easy win. Instead, it’s going to be up to R.A. Dickey — though, it would seem that R.A. will need to throw a complete-game shutout in order to garner a victory for this sinking ship.

Just as disappointing as Niese’s outing against a minor league lineup was the Mets hitters’ inability to mount a rally of any sort against 21-year-old Jordan Lyles — he of the 5.70 ERA entering the ballgame. Lyles has decent stuff, including a tailing 94-MPH fastball and a good curveball — but he has inconsistent command and isn’t overpowering. Certainly, he doesn’t have the kind of stuff that one would expect to hold a Major League team to three hits and one run in six innings. Yet he did, because the Mets offense is so cold it needs to be measured with a Kelvin thermometer.

On the bright side, David Wright nestled a ball just over the right field wall and into the foul pole (or is it fair pole?) netting for his 200th career homerun. Will he hit his 300th as a Met? Will he even hit his 210th as a Met? Hmm …

Also nice to see Justin Turner get a start — only his seventh at second base all year. I had begun to wonder if Turner was still on the roster, he’s been used so infrequently. Crazy, isn’t it, that the team’s best all-around second baseman has started all of seven games at the position? Turner had one hit — a perfectly executed hit-and-run on a full count — in three at-bats as the completely exhausted Daniel Murphy received a day of rest.

The team’s second-best second baseman — Jordany Valdespin — misplayed yet another fly ball in the outfield, though it wasn’t ruled an error. I didn’t mind him learning the position on the fly while he was hitting balls over the fence, but Valdespin is now 3 for his last 21, and he’s hit one homerun in 47 August at-bats. In other words, his defensive deficiencies are not being made up with offense.

Similarly, Josh Thole continues to struggle both at and behind the plate. Thole is now six for August and hasn’t had an extra-base hit since July 29th. Thole’s OPS in the month of August is .393. In case you aren’t aware, that’s atrocious.

The Mets had four hits against the second-worst-pitching team in the NL. What else is there to say?

Next Mets Game

The Mets and Astros do it again on Saturday afternoon at 1:10 p.m. R.A. Dickey heads to the hill against Fernando Abad.

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 August 25, 2012 at 7:46 am
    Only 1 disagreement with your article. Niese could not give the Mets an easy win because the Mets are incapable of scoring any runs. 1-0 win is not easy especially when the starter looks at the pen and sees what is backing him up!
    Note to alderson: Call up Boston and ask for lesson in moving bad contracts. Note to Met fans. do not say bad cantracts cannot be moved.
    • Joe Janish August 25, 2012 at 2:47 pm
      I agree with you on the Mets’ inability to score runs. BUT, after falling behind by two runs right away in the top of the second, my eyes saw body language by the Mets suggesting they were going in the tank. They went fully into the tank the moment Ike Davis was thrown out at home in the bottom of the inning.

      Maybe if Niese holds off the Astros through, say, five innings, the Mets don’t quit. I don’t know. Bottom line is that if Niese is as good as we want him to be, he’s not allowing such an inferior club to score on him three times in seven innings.

  2. gary s. August 25, 2012 at 8:42 am
    Niese and Murphy must use the same training regimen.Two athletes in their twenties who run out of gas in August?Plus the GM was too tired in early July to pick up his phone and make a deal or two that could have helped the team.If the Astros sweep us where can i get a paper bag to put over my head?
  3. DaveSchneck August 25, 2012 at 2:30 pm
    This run is not at historic level of ineptness. The Astros were 12-51 on te road coming into the game. Unreal.
  4. Micalpalyn August 26, 2012 at 4:54 am
    Izzy, great stuff. I am out on a limb here too. I would let dw go take the prospects and let zach lutz, murphy, justin turner take turns at the hot corner.

    Better yet and frank francico to the deal…