Mets Game 7: Win Over Phillies

Mets 7 Phillies 2

Mets make an early season statement in Philadelphia, suggesting that they — and not the Phillies — may be the team to take third place in the NL East.

Mets Game Notes

Roy Halladay looked awful, even in his clean first frame. This isn’t a case of an older pitcher losing velocity on his fastball — there is something physically wrong with Halladay, whether he admits to it or not. He’s pitching with pain, and it can be seen by his body language and his arm motion — it looks like he’s pushing the ball and straining on every pitch. I would guess the issue is with his shoulder, but his struggle with command makes me wonder if it’s an elbow / forearm issue. Maybe it’s both. Something is definitely physically wrong, and if he makes it past July without going on the DL, I’ll be surprised.

Watching Halladay try to compete actually makes me ill; it reminds me somewhat of Steve Carlton‘s final few years. I don’t want to see a competitor like Halladay unable to compete — it’s frustrating and sad.

Matt Harvey is Halladay’s direct opposite: young, healthy, strong — and an absolute pleasure to watch. I’m loving Harvey’s change-up, and his velocity was surprising — he blew a 98-MPH fastball past Ryan Howard for a big third out in the first inning, stranding Chase Utley on third. Maybe the gun was a little fast, but if it wasn’t … wow.

Speaking of that strikeout … bizarre decision by Terry Collins to play the infield in with one out, no score, man on third, and in the first inning. Even if it was circa 2010 Roy Halladay on the mound, it doesn’t make much sense, especially in the launching pad known as Citizens Bank Park.

Keith Hernandez keeps saying that Daniel Murphy could be / should be the #3 hitter in the Mets lineup, suggesting that perhaps he’d be in that spot if the Mets could find better #1 and #2s. I don’t understand this logic at all — not when the Mets have David Wright entrenched for the rest of the decade. In a bad year, Wright’s OBP is .350, and in a typical year, it’s a shade under .400, so unless you have three Rickey Hendersons on your club, it makes little sense to not guarantee a first-inning at-bat to your best hitter AND best on-base guy. Further, if Murphy is as amazing as Hernandez believes he could be, why NOT have him batting second? Why NOT guarantee both Murphy AND Wright first-inning plate appearances? Is there any reason a team wouldn’t want to make sure their very best offensive players get the most opportunities?

Keith also made a comment that gave me pause, and conflicted with a Kevin Burkhardt report, regarding Ryan Howard and power hitting. Per Keith, Howard was not hitting with power because his front foot wound up pointing toward the third base line and not opening up, and — according to Keith — it’s impossible for a hitter to open his hips and hit with power unless he rotates his front foot and winds up with his front foot open toward the pitcher. The inning before, Burkhardt relayed a talk he had with Dan Murphy, during which Murphy said one of his adjustments to create more power was to keep his front toe closed. Huh. So who’s right? In this case, I mostly disagree Keith. First, Howard does slightly rotate his front foot, as do all good hitters. Second, a hitter would NOT want to consciously open up his front toe during the swing, because it almost always leads to the hips opening too early — once the hips open, that’s it, the power from the lower half is gone. Also, there’s a really good chance that the head has pulled out, as well as the front shoulder, which means the hitter a) likely isn’t see the ball as well and as long as possible and b) if the shoulder pulls out early, the only way to hit with authority is by pulling it and by making contact far out in front of the plate; both of those conditions lead to a very small margin for error (hence, infrequent contact). Off the top of my head, the only hitter I can remember who succeeded with such an approach was Reggie Jackson — who, granted, had a Hall of Fame career, but I’m not sure he had the ideal hitting style.

As long as I’m piling on Keith — and trust me, I very much enjoy listening to him, and usually agree with him — I was incredibly disappointed that he completely forgot about J.R. Richard during his ninth-inning discussion of hard-throwing pitchers he faced back in the day. Yeah, it’s nitpicking, but if you ever saw Richard pitch, and know his entire story — from the stroke he suffered to the story of him living in a box under an overpass — then you might understand why I want his era of success remembered. I’m sure if he was reminded, Keith would go to lengths to discuss Richard; as an older person myself I know about forgetting things and forgive him for the omission.

Great at-bat by Ruben Tejada, and awful execution by Chad Durbin in the fifth inning. Bases were loaded, Durbin quickly got ahead of Tejada 0-2, then wasted three breaking pitches off the plate, hoping Tejada would chase one. In that situation, a pitcher should throw one “waste” pitch — MAYBE he throws two, but only if it’s a legit power hitter at the plate. When it’s the #8 hitter, and you’re already down by five, you can’t be diddling around hoping to entice a swing at a bad pitch — if you don’t have confidence in throwing a strike against the worst hitter on the opposing team, when he’s behind on the count, then when WILL you have confidence, and really, what the heck are you doing on the mound? Further, with two outs and the bases loaded, a pitcher has to understand that the 2-2 pitch is vastly more important than the 3-2 pitch, because if you miss on 2-2, you’ve put yourself into double trouble: the runners are in motion, and you have to throw a strike. At that point, I would actually call for another slider in the dirt, because everyone in the ballpark is expecting something in the strike zone, it’s likely to get hit, and if you miss, well, a walk is only one run, not two. I’ve always been amazed at the fear of pitchers to walk in a run — they’d rather give up a grand slam than force in a run. Leo Mazzone had the same feeling — a pitcher is better off walking in one run, rather than giving in to the hitter and the result being two, three, or four runs. Anyway … credit Tejada for hanging in there and forcing the issue.

Filed the folder labeled “when optimism turns to insanity,” a GKR talking point in this game was not-so-subtle suggestion that the 2013 Mets could emulate the 2012 Athletics, citing the Mets’ perceived ability to take walks and their perceived ability to hit homeruns, combined with their “strong” starting pitching. Oh my. Really? It’s bad enough when fans convince themselves of such a fantasy … though, I guess that makes it a good talking point, so kudos to the producer who put that into the pregame script. Let’s dial back to reality, and remind ourselves that a.) the Mets have only 3 legit starting pitchers, and we’re not even sure if a fourth (Zack Wheeler) will emerge in 2013; b.) the Mets’ power surge and on-base abilities are due more to the fact they were hitting against two teams that would be fighting for the worst in MLB if not for the existence of the Astros; and c.) even if you wish to credit the talents of the Marlins and Padres pitchers, the Mets’ homeruns came during unusual conditions at Citi Field (the wind, for once, was blowing OUT) and at CBP. Yes, it’s a feelgood story and it’s nice to think that the Mets could fight the Nationals and/or Braves for the top of the NL East — for people who are not paying much attention. To the rest of us, it’s an insult to our intelligence.

Speaking of feelgood stories, no matter how many ways they try to spin it, I can’t get all warm and fuzzy about Marlon Byrd. When Burkhardt was talking about Byrd going online to find batting cages, I couldn’t help but wonder if he had another browser window open looking for undetectable PEDs. That may not be fair but that’s the way I see him. I’m not going to feel great about Byrd’s success, knowing that he could be taking a job from someone — possibly a youngster — who has chosen to do things “the right way.” That’s not to say Byrd is juicing now; rather, it’s the fact that Byrd knew exactly what he was doing, and the potential consequences, when he took PEDs, yet he did it anyway — and further, I’d be completely stunned if it was a “one-time thing,” knowing his long-time relationship with Victor Conte of BALCO. If it looks, smells, and walks like a duck …

Next Mets Game

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. AC Wayne April 8, 2013 at 10:48 pm
    Punt or not, love it when the Mets stick it to the Phillies, at CBP no less, up-and-coming ace beats washed up ace, what the heck is wrong w/Halladay? he had 99 pitches in 4 IP, I saw him struggle with Harvey at the plate, OUCH!
    • Joe Janish April 8, 2013 at 11:05 pm
      Long live Ray Guy!

      Halladay is hurt. I wonder if both his shoulder AND his elbow are ailing.

  2. Steven April 8, 2013 at 11:34 pm
    Joe. I think you are essentially saying Byrd is juicing it now. You should reread your words other than the I’m not accusing him sentence

    The real test for the team will be when we are in slim lead positions in 8th or 9th. I currently have low confidence in our bullpen in those situations

    • Joe Janish April 9, 2013 at 8:32 am
      I’ve re-read it six times. I’m not accusing him of anything. He’s already been found guilty and miraculously did not have to serve time.
      • Rick April 9, 2013 at 10:56 am
        But he did serve time…just not as a member of a MLB team, because the Red Sox released him.
        • Joe Janish April 9, 2013 at 11:50 am
          I know that’s the explanation but it’s crap. It follows the same lack of logic behind Manny Ramirez’s time-served “suspension.” How can a player be suspended when he isn’t on a roster? How can he lose pay when he’s not under contract?

          Maybe I’m being too hard on him because of his ridiculous excuse of taking Tamoxifen for a “private condition unrelated to baseball.”

          Even if it’s 100% true that he had a rare condition that would require an anti-estrogen drug, it would be impossible for him to not know that Tamoxifen/Nolvadex is used by steroid users precisely for treating gynecomastia, based on his close relationship with Victor Conte and many years of weight training / body building / supplement-taking. It’s also completely inexcusable to claim ignorance when a list of banned substances is readily available. Just own up to it, or be more open about what this “private condition” is/was. I know a person’s health should be private, but when a pro athlete continues to train with Victor Conte, and has been rumored to be using steroids, then is caught taking a banned drug, there aren’t many other options for proving innocence. People who choose to make a living in the public spotlight have to deal with burdens associated with it.

        • Quinn April 9, 2013 at 9:50 pm
          I agree with you Joe 100% Im a little dissappointed in everyone so blantantly overlooking his infractions when talking about him.
  3. Paul Festa April 9, 2013 at 12:17 am
    Halladay’s slider was never near the strike zone tonight. If he could throw that for a strike, his 89-91 fastball wouldn’t hurt him so much. But he may very well have a physical malady.

    And I think Murph is perfect for the number two spot the way the lineup is structured now.

    • Joe Janish April 9, 2013 at 8:45 am
      Except he wasn’t commanding his fastball too well, either. He used to thread a needle with his fastball. Velocity may diminish over time but generally speaking, command won’t be lost with a veteran of his caliber unless there’s a change in delivery and/or an injury.
  4. TexasGusCC April 9, 2013 at 3:41 am
    I agree and disagree with your points. First, the announcers are paid by the Mets and the station is owned by the Mets, so I am sure they are reminded by the producers to make mention of how they are young like the A’s (every team like the Mets is probably pushing that), have good young players, etc. I agree that they are feeding us BS, but it’s their job.
    Second, I disagree that the Mets have only three legitimate starters. As a #5, Hefner is no worse than other #5s. The problem is the Mets do not have a #1. It is for that reason the I don’t think Harang will help much (but we all know the Coupons will never concur with adding payroll). Even if the Mets add a #2, or at worst a #3 type, it would be an upgrade. Adding another #5 is no upgrade. I can live with the four that started the season and if Marcum is not ready in two weeks, go get someone Bud Norris that is young and good. The Astros want to move him for prospects soon, so there you are. What are they to do with all the prospects anyway?
    • Joe Janish April 9, 2013 at 8:43 am
      Yes, unfortunately it is GKR’s job to follow talking points. I find those artificially injected tidbits to be annoying, so I complain about them.

      You can judge Jeremy Hefner as you wish. I see him as a mid-rotation starter for a AAA club. Filler material. I see Hefner as worse than Dillon Gee, and I think Gee is a solid #5 for a contending MLB club.

      But maybe you’re right, maybe Hefner is “no worse” than any other #5 in the grand scheme of things, because MLB has become so horribly watered-down over the years, it’s hard to describe it as “Major League.” Thank you, Bud Selig, for that.

      I’ve always been intrigued with Norris, but do the Mets have anything to offer in return, that they can part with and the Astros need?

      Matt Harvey looks like he’ll be a #1, don’t you think?

    • DaveSchneck April 9, 2013 at 8:50 am
      T Gus,
      I want to contain my excitement regarding Harvey, but he sure looks like a #1 so far in his MLB career. Your suggestion makes some sense, but there is no way that Alderson is going to do it. If he can’t pry a guy like Capuano from the Dodgers, I don’t see him meeting the price on Norris, which will be extreme. He will wait for his crop to ripen, and they do have a big crop that is off to a good start this year. For the Mets to have any shot at replicating the 2012 A’s, Alderson will need to get off his keester and improve the pitching and OF.
  5. TexasGusCC April 9, 2013 at 4:02 am
    Just to clarify, I am not saying that Norris is a #1, he is more like a decent #2 to a good #3, but rather that if the price is right, I would do it.
    • Joe April 9, 2013 at 10:13 am
      Norris seems like a decent pick-up though more believable as a #3 … Harrell last season seemed like the ‘ace’ on that staff, going 11-11, which given the team, is pretty good.
  6. Joe April 9, 2013 at 10:12 am
    Tejada had another good at bat on Sunday (well, at least one) and hopefully his head will be in the right place in the field as well.

    As to GKR, they sold Collins a tad much. Hey, I think he overall is doing well in a bad situation, but the black mark is the second half last season. The team simply collapsed and more than one person said the team basically gave up on him. If the Mets gutted it out, fine — didn’t expect the 1/2 half numbers. But, they simply collapsed … again. So, yeah, don’t think he deserves to be guaranteed anything yet.

    Does seem the NL East will be Nats, Braves and also rans, if the Phils keep this up. What does the future have in store for them?

    • Joe Janish April 9, 2013 at 12:04 pm
      Agreed on the second-half collapse of 2012 — and may I add their 2011 second-half collapse? Terry Collins has to keep them from quitting a third year in a row or he may never manage again, anywhere.

      It will be interesting to see what happens with the Phillies. I think they looked really bad because Halladay was really bad. They’re old, but those veterans likely will play solid, steady defense and do all the little things. And, they still have Lee and Hamels.

  7. Dan B April 9, 2013 at 10:32 am
    I think Harvey’s ceiling has been raised to include being an ace. However, I would not plan around it. If I was the GM, I’d still be thinking I might need an ace. At the worst, you either end up with two aces or wasted your time coming up with a plan B which you don’t need.
    • Joe Janish April 9, 2013 at 12:00 pm
      I’ll disagree — I think Harvey is a future ace — but I’m on the same track as you in terms of planning a rotation. Regardless of whether one thinks Harvey is an ace or not, the Mets still need to be looking for more aces if they intend on becoming a championship club. Most contending teams have two (some three) guys in their rotation who could be considered #1s. Further, an ace this year may not be an ace next year — the old Baltimore Orioles of the 1970s/early 80s immediately come to mind, with their great starting pitchers.

      In other words, if the Mets believe Harvey is an ace, they shouldn’t stop there and fill in the rest of the rotation with potential #3s — unless they plan to have a lineup resembling the 2009 Yankees / a 900-run offense.