Spring Training Game 1: Mets vs. Nationals
Mets 5 Nationals 3
It’s always nice to win. But with so many different players involved in the ballgame, we don’t judge spring training by wins and losses.
Mets Game Notes
Shaun Marcum worked quickly and threw strikes — exactly the kind of pitching I like to see.
Stephen “Shut Him Down” Strasburg struggled with his mechanics in the initial inning and Ruben Tejada took advantage, getting ahead on the count 3-1 and then sitting on two fastballs over the middle of the plate — the second of which Tejada lifted into the Floria breeze. The ball wound up drifting over the center-field fence to give the Mets a two-run lead.
All eyes, of course, were on young phenom Zack Wheeler. He was amped up in his first inning, over-throwing a bit. In his second frame he was more relaxed and pitched more naturally. His velocity and fastball command look strong, and though he doesn’t yet have great command of his secondary stuff, it has good potential — his curveball is straight over the top with good 12-6 drop, and he gets good downward movement on what appears to be a slider. I didn’t see any change-ups, and not sure whether he throws one. There’s no doubt he has swing-and-miss stuff. My only concern is that makes his shoulder work really hard in delivering the ball. Although his mechanics look fluid and he repeats them well, his throwing arm lags a bit behind the rest of his body; his motion reminds me — a lot — of Mark Prior‘s.
Lucas Duda looks more beefy than he has in the past; to me he’s always been more gangly than beefy. Maybe it’s the oversized white uniform making him look bigger, or maybe it’s the beard. In any case, his swing looks longer than I remember. I know batting coach Dave Hudgens was working with Duda on how his hands go back (the “take-back”) into the launch position, but that hasn’t done anything to shorten his swing — which to me prevents Duda from being a consistent hitter. Duda’s left elbow flies up high as his hands drop, leading to a long, loopy, “arm swing.” A big swing like that is fine for lifting pitches low and middle-in, but leaves a hitter vulnerable on fastballs above the belt. At this point in his career, Duda might be best taking an all-or-nothing Adam Dunn approach: working the count, waiting for mistakes, and trying to pound the ball over the fence on nearly every swing.
Cory Mazzoni appears to have good velocity; if the radar readings were correct, he was humming up to 96 MPH. He has a curious hitch in his motion during the leg lift, where he kind of sits down on the back leg for a moment; not sure what that’s all about. Overall his mechanics are slightly out of balance and his follow-through takes him toward 1B; both are signs that command and consistency could be a challenge.
Darin Gorski severely over-rotates during leg lift, making it very difficult to keep a consistent release point, in turn making command / control a challenge. That over-rotation causes his front side to fly open early, leaving his throwing arm to lag behind, and this is most noticeable when throwing his breaking pitch — when it appears as though he’s twisting his arm instead just his hand to get breaking-ball spin on the ball.
At the plate, Collin Cowgill reminds me a little bit of Joe McEwing, mainly because of his upright batting stance and the way he dives into the plate. For most of his career, Super Joe was a singles hitter, but in his youth he had some pop — he hit 8 HR and posted a .449 SLG in less than 300 at-bats for the Mets in 2001. In fact, the minor-league careers of Cowgill and McEwing share similarities. As a 25-year-old, McEwing hit 15 HR with a .556 SLG and .947 OPS through 603 plate appearances split between AA and AAA. Cowgill as a 24-year-old hit 16 HR with a .464 SLG and .825 OPS in 577 PAs in AA, then hit 13 HR with a .554 SLG and .984 OPS in 456 PAs as a 25-year-old. That doesn’t necessarily mean Cowgill is going to become a hitter like McEwing was in the bigs, but it’s an interesting comparison; the only reason I thought of it was due to Cowgill’s hitting style.
Landon Powell is a big man. A very big man. Like, Babe Ruth big. That makes for a nice, big target for pitchers to aim at and a fearsome roadblock to prevent runners from scoring, but he can’t move too quickly so he’s not going to stop many balls in the dirt, nor will he be taking many extra bases. He’s otherwise fairly athletic, but needs to shed a few dozen pounds, because even his bat looks slow.
That’s all I have for now. Anything you saw that you can share? Anything from the game you’d like to discuss? Post in the comments.