Random Thoughts On NLCS Game 5

Remember when I said the season was over for me? Yeah, that didn’t last. My body found itself in front of the TV due to the magnetic pull of baseball.

A few random observations:

Barry Zito was an absolute pleasure to watch.
There’s excitement and awestruck amazement in watching a power pitcher like Nolan Ryan or Justin Verlander dominate hitters. Similarly, yet contrastingly, there is a beauty in seeing someone shut down MLB hitters without throwing more than 85-86 MPH. The former is intriguing because you’re watching something that seems superhuman. The latter is enjoyable because it’s being done by someone who could just as easily be yourself (or at least, very close to it).

Further, I have personal interest in seeing Zito’s success because at least some of it can be traced to my good friend Angel Borrelli. Zito was a student of Borrelli while pitching for the A’s, but he decided to follow the philosophy of an instructor who shall remain nameless when he joined the Giants. This instructor completely changed Zito’s mechanics with the goal of gaining velocity. The results, as we all know, were disastrous. Finally, a year ago, Zito went back to Angel for help. Certainly, Zito’s mindset and hard work ethic had much to do with his success in 2012, but I also believe strongly that at least part of it also had to do with readjustment of his mechanics — with which Angel played a part. Zito’s return to effective pitching helps me keep faith in the idea that there is such a thing as efficient (and safe) mechanics, and that efficient mechanics can and do lead to positive performance.

Also: didn’t Zito remind you of R.A. Dickey or Tom Glavine with that savvy push-bunt to drive in a run with two out in the fourth? That’s a ballplayer, and that’s one of the myriad reasons I despise the DH.

Angel Pagan is stepping in the bucket.
I remember him doing this on occasion as a Met, but he seems to be doing it every swing in the NLCS. Will he or his hitting coach notice and make an adjustment? Also in regard to Pagan, is it me or is he playing stronger and smarter defense than we remember? Of course, it could just be the small sample size of the postseason. Pagan’s flaws became more magnified over the long haul.

- Brandon Crawford is a solid shortstop.
He may be unspectacular, and only so-so offensively, but the kid is smooth as butter in the field, making all the plays he has to make, never making a mistake, and making it look easy.

Trevor Rosenthal is some kind of talent.
The 22-year-old reminds me a bit of Craig Kimbrel or Billy Wagner with his ability to place 98-99 MPH fastballs at knee level — and often painting the corners. His combination of command and velocity is downright scary.

Rosenthal, Mitchell Boggs, and Jason Motte in one bullpen suggest that having relievers who throw 95+ is not so special.
I see these flamethrowers hitting great spots throughout the strike zone, keeping cool in high-pressure situations, and complementing their heat with plus secondary stuff, and the first thought comes into my head is this: why can’t Manny Acosta, Bobby Parnell, Jeurys Familia, and Jenrry Mejia pitch like this? The Mets value these individuals in particular specifically because of their velocity. But perhaps 95+ velocity is not as special as we think it is – perhaps, the real uniqueness is in commanding and working off that velocity. They say you can’t teach velocity, but maybe the truth is that you can’t teach command. Hmm …

There’s nothing stylish about Yadier Molina’s neck tattoo.
Just sayin’.

- Hunter Pence still does everything ugly.
Doesn’t matter whether he’s wearing an Astros, Phillies, or Giants uniform; he looks awkward and spastic in everything he does, and it continues to amaze me that he hits 25 HR / 90 RBI / .280 AVG annually. When is he getting all these hits and driving in these runs?

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. NormE October 20, 2012 at 12:46 am
    Joe, “scary” is the best word that can be used in describing Rosenthal. Good call.
    Also, I loved your description of the mastery of Zito vs. the Cards. I remember that there were times that Bobby Ojeda showed that kind of mastery.
  2. Izzy October 20, 2012 at 9:06 am
    Watch games other than Met games and you quickly realize that MLB rosters are flooded with hard throwers. Can you teach them command? Probably not, they have to have the work ethic to work endlessly on it. All you can do is teach them a sect Pagan is doing. ondary pitch, but unlike the Mets and Parnell, these other teams probably don’t keep sh oving a different secondary pitch on them every couple months.
    As for Pagan, come on Joe you have doubts the Giant hitting coach doesn’t see what Pagan is doing. That’s insulting. You know its not easy to get out of a hitting rut. But as for Pagan playing better, of course he is. Bochy doesn’t over mange like Collins does and he is allowed to b e himself. As a matter of fact it looks like both these teams go out and play and are not over managed and mismanaged by a hapless organization like the Mets are.
  3. argonbunnies October 20, 2012 at 6:33 pm
    It makes me sad that part of our supposed future optimism includes Mejia and Familia. Were the Cardinals ever in a position where they had to tell themselves, “Our future looks bright because we have Trevor Rosenthal!”? No… and Rosenthal’s way better than our guys. *sigh*

    Joe, if I had to pick a nominee for “ya can’t teach _”, I’d pick “maintaining velocity while locating”. Sometimes it seems like every pro pitcher I see could throw 95 if they don’t care where it’s going (like Mejia and Familia!). And there are a lot of guys who can hit spots when they dial it back to 87.

    Seems to me that it’s only the combo that has any value. I hope I never hear another scouting report that says “great velocity, poor command” as if this is exciting for a prospect.

    Pagan’s defense:
    It was great in 2010. We know it can be great. I just can’t fathom what flips the switch from great to bone-headed.

  4. Joe October 20, 2012 at 9:24 pm
    Joe wants that Tigers/Giants WS.
  5. DaveSchneck October 20, 2012 at 10:42 pm
    Joe,
    Excellent post. Any baseball fan has to appreciate the type of game that Zito threw. As others above pointed out, the overvaluing of “hard throwers” has deterred people from valuing good pitching. As Tom Seaver said, it is location, location, location, and keeping the batter uncomfortable and off balance. It is no accident that teams like the Braves, Giants, and Cards seem to always find guys that can pitch, regardless of what the gun says. I would love to see your friend Angel in the Mets organization. Imagine if Mejia and Familia were trained to pitch instead of throwing?
  6. mic October 22, 2012 at 11:16 am
    Agreed. Fantastic post. After seeing the dribble PAID writers put out…I wonder why someone does not ask you.

    – On Zito; remember when (several) bloggers thought he’d be a good swap.

    -On managers: EXACTLY!!!! And not just Bochy. I dont think Collins is a long term solution as much as he is a sign of the rebuilding program. And not rebuilding in the baseball sense as much as the fiscal credibility of the franchise. there are younger more talented managers…and many old heads. Nice to see Dusty Baker, Jim Leyland and Buck Showalter show they still have ‘it’.