Mets Game 1: Win Over Padres

Mets 11 Padres 2

The Mets are in first place!

Could a Mets fan be happier with the Opening Day result? I don’t think so. The Mets scored more than ten runs on Opening Day for the fifth time in their history as they increased their Opening Day record overall to 34-18 and remain undefeated in Opening Days at Citi Field. The pitching was great, the offense was great, the defense was great. The Padres gave them opportunities and the Mets pounced on them. It was as close to a perfect game as one can hope for.

Does that mean it’s all downhill from here?

Oh I’m only (half-)kidding. On to the in-depth baseball analysis and random thoughts that passed through my head during the ballgame.

Mets Game Notes

It didn’t take long for Collin Cowgill to endear himself with Mets fans — a grand slam on Opening Day has pretty much solidified his status as a fan favorite, at least through June. I loved seeing him racing around the bases on the salami, as opposed to standing, watching it, and jogging. He hit the ball, put down his head, and ran like hell — very old school. Awesome. Granted, it was a line drive, and barely made it over the wall, but still; I’ve seen plenty of guys get into Cadillac mode on balls that were short of the fence.

Cowgill, by the way, is leading the league in RBI with 4, and tied for second in homeruns. He takes some big cuts at the plate.

Jonathon Niese has grown into a pitcher who is enjoyable to watch. He keeps cool, works quickly, doesn’t mess around, goes right after hitters when he’s supposed to, and has learned how to pitch around hitters when he needs to. Also liked seeing him use his curveball as his main secondary pitch. If there’s a negative I think he might be slowing his motion down just a tick on the curve and what looks to be some kind of a change-up (it looks like it might be a slow fastball, similar to what Catfish Hunter used to throw in his later years). Is the slowdown enough to telegraph his off-speed pitches? Perhaps not. He’s also still dropping his arm angle on the cutter, but we’ve been discussing this for three (four?) years running so, whatever — it is what it is.

By the way, Niese is leading MLB in hitting (1.000).

On the other end o the spectrum, eternal enigma Edinson Volquez showed why he is an eternal enigma — he completely fell apart after walking John Buck with two out in the second. It’s really a shame that he’s such a head case, because his stuff can be electric; not many pitchers can spot a 93-MPH knee-high fastball on both sides of the plate with movement, mix in an excellent, sinking changeup, and also have a super-tight 12-6 curve. But at the slightest hint of adversity, he becomes filled with self-doubt and anger and can no longer focus on the task at hand. That’s bad enough, but the fact he outwardly communicates his fear through body language makes him akin to a bleeding dolphin in a sea of sharks. If I was his manager, I’d have considered pulling him immediately after the second inning, replaced him with the game 3 or 4 starter, and maybe start him again on Thursday or Friday. But, that’s too much of an out-of-the-box execution for a Major League manager, and it’s too difficult for most MLB pitchers to change gears mid-stream / get out of their routine. It’s easier for everyone to just hope a guy can get out of his own mess, one way or the other.

After seeing Volquez crumble, how happy are you that Mike Pelfrey is in Minnesota? The ability to keep an even keel may be as important as skill set for a pitcher — because one without the other can be maddeningly useless.

David Wright kept his home opener hitting streak perfect, collecting a single in the third. He was really, really loading up as he prepares to swing, jacking his right elbow way up to the sky. Personally, I don’t like to see that — and discourage it in my teaching — because it almost always leads to a long swing and uppercut. Wright had a similar load in ’09 and ’10, when he was striking out at record rates. However, it could’ve just been a result of Opening Day excitement, or maybe he’s using that swing in certain situations.

Wright also stole two bases; he leads MLB in that category.

Lucas Duda had a prime opportunity to drive a ball in the third with two out, 3-1 lead, a 3-0 count, Marlon Byrd on second base, and Volquez clearly playing head games with himself. Duda took a flat, fat fastball over the middle of the plate, then took ball four on the next pitch. Yes, he wound up with a walk. Yes, John Buck followed with a RBI single in the next at-bat. So it all worked out well. But, let’s forget the result and focus on the process: why isn’t Duda hacking in that situation? You don’t want a batter to hack for the sake of hacking, but if that wasn’t the pitch he wanted, what pitch was he zoning for in that spot? It looked to me like he was taking the pitch all the way — and that’s fine if the score is tied, or your team is behind, or Justin Turner or Ruben Tejada is at the plate, but Duda, with a lead, with two out? I want him salivating in that spot, looking to crush something. I know the stat guys love OBP but for Lucas Duda to be valuable he has to hit the long ball, and one of the secrets to high homerun totals is swinging on 3-0 counts.

Speaking of Buck, GKR relayed the info that Terry Collins identified the veteran catcher as being “the most demonstrative catcher he’s had in meetings so far.” adding that Buck “takes the meetings over,” “dictates how they’re going to pitch to certain hitters,” is “assertive,” and, when young pitchers shake him off, he’ll go out and let them know that he has the game plan and is in charge.

After hearing that preplanned talking point, I wanted to bang my head against the wall, because it was presented as if all of these attributes were some kind of revelation, or made John Buck remarkable. Well, I guess that’s true, if one lived inside the bubble of the Mets organization over the past three years. However, if one was involved in any other baseball club, at any other level all the way down to high school (and really, below that), one would already know these are traits EXPECTED of a catcher — this is part of the catcher’s job, it’s what he’s supposed to do. Thank goodness John Buck has shown some homerun power in his past and more recently showed willingness to take a walk, or the data-based evaluators in the front office might not have lucked into acquiring him. Though, I suppose it was a matter of time before the Mets finally brought in an everyday catcher from outside the organization.

Marlon Byrd picked up where he left off in Florida, swatting two hard-hit RBI singles. He’s really been juicing the ball this spring.

From the Mets perspective, there was one negative in the ballgame that was glazed over by the eleven runs — Ike Davis was oh-fer-five with four strikeouts. Ouch. Good time to do that, though — save the contact for games when the Mets will need it.

Jedd Gyorko, and it’s pronounced “jerk-oh”? Really? Either he got his butt kicked quite a bit as a kid, or he did a lot of butt-kicking.

Next Mets Game

The Mets and Padres take Tuesday off and go at it again on Wednesday night at 7:10 PM. Matt Harvey makes his first start of the year against Clayton Richard.

Mets 2013 Games

About the Author

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.

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