Mets Game 14: Loss to Rockies

Rockies 11 Mets 3

You’d never know it, but this was a low-scoring, one-run game entering the 7th inning.

Mets Game Notes

Jon Garland didn’t have much velocity nor did he miss many bats PRIOR to undergoing labrum and rotator cuff surgery back in 2011. He throws even softer now and misses even fewer bats, but that didn’t keep him from stymieing the Mets hitters on this below-freezing afternoon in Denver. Garland mixed a variety of slop — sinkers, sliders, curves, and change-ups — to hold the Mets to two runs on six hits and no walks in seven innings. Remember all the hoo-ha of the Mets being patient this year, working counts, and following the plan set forth by batting coach Dave Hudgens? Well, Garland threw only 83 pitches in those seven frames — less than a dozen per inning, which is insanely efficient. He had a four-pitch inning in the fifth, which is absolutely, positively unacceptable from the perspective of the offense. If it was Pedro Martinez, Bob Gibson, or Roy Halladay in his prime on the mound, MAYBE you can understand it. Allowing Jon Garland to get away with a four-pitch inning is ridiculous — there is no fear of falling behind the count and being dominated by him.

Though he didn’t have his best stuff (where have I heard that before?), Jonathon Niese matched Garland pitch-for-pitch — though not with the same efficiency. Niese hurled one less inning and 13 more pitches (6 IP, 96 pitches) in holding the Rox to 3 runs on 9 hits and a walk. It wasn’t a great outing, but it was good enough to keep the Mets in the game. Unfortunately, the bullpen couldn’t perform with anything near the same proficiency.

Oh, the bullpen … do we really want to go there? I guess we have to, because it was the difference in the ballgame, and is growing into a major concern far too early in the season. Was it just a coincidence that all four Mets relievers had a bad day? Were all four affected by the cold weather in a way that Garland wasn’t? Or do they just stink? Let’s go through the excuse file to try to explain it away.

Scott Atchison pitched poorly because it was inevitable that he’d eventually have a poor outing. Josh Edgin pitched poorly because he’s in a bad rut. Jeurys Familia pitched poorly because he had been used to the very warm weather in the PCL, and the mile-high freezing conditions were a shock to his system. Jeremy Hefner pitched poorly because he’s not used to pitching in relief. There, it’s all good.

In all seriousness, Atchison was due for a bad game. Edgin has dropped his arm angle and as a result, everything is flat. I think it’s time to demote him to work things out. Familia can’t seem to throw a strike unless it’s a flat fastball over the middle of the plate. There could be something to the theory that Hefner isn’t used to relieving.

Speaking of dropped arm angles, I’m beginning to wonder if I should simply accept the fact that Niese is a sidearm pitcher. He’s now regularly throwing at a low angle, and often under the ball at release. When he tries to go more over the top, he has no command, usually throwing a worm-beater, as high three-quarters has become more the exception rather than the rule. I wonder if he’s doing this consciously to alleviate pain or because he believes it’s more effective — or is this an unconscious execution?

Carlos Gonzalez was a one-man wrecking machine this series, but one interesting detail: until his line-drive single to right field in the seventh, CarGo had hit ten consecutive balls to the left of second base. Motivated by the shift, perhaps? Perhaps, perhaps.

Last year, Colorado third baseman Chris Nelson was somewhere between below-average and barely adequate defensively. During these three games, however, he’s made plays that reminded me of Graig Nettles. I’m guessing he made a focused effort to improve his defense during the winter, because it is possible to significantly improve defense with hard work — Don Mattingly is the poster boy for that truism, and it looks like Daniel Murphy might be turning himself into an adequate defender. Point being: while at least some of defensive ability is dependent on athleticism and god-given skill, if one wants to become better on defense, he/she can do it through a combination of learning the proper processes and hard work. OK kids? You can always get better if you want to be better.

What the heck happened to Chris Volstad? He is downright awful now, which is a shame considering how promising he looked just a few years ago. I thought he was going to let the Mets back into the game, but lucky for him, his defense saved him (see Nelson, above) and the Mets simply didn’t have their “A-game” on offense on this particular afternoon.

Next Mets Game

The Mets flee the frozen tundra for Flushing on Friday to begin a weekend series hosting the Nationals. Game one begins at 7:10 p.m. and pits 24-year-old phenoms Matt Harvey and Stephen Strasburg.

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. argonbunnies April 19, 2013 at 6:16 am
    You’ve been talking about Niese’s low arm slot for a long time now, and it never seemed obvious to me… until today. His arm slot today was very similar to the slot Randy Johnson settled on. I think Randy got there once he’d completely ditched his curve and developed a dominant slider. Coincidence? I only saw Niese throw one curve all day that actually broke down significantly. Coincidence?

    I think Niese needs his curve to succeed, and he probably needs to get his arm slot back up for that. I can’t imagine he’s sidearming on purpose; bad habits or minor injury seems more likely.

    As for making excuses for relievers, it wouldn’t surprise me if Atchison’s balky elbow objected to two appearances in freezing weather this week. He had zero location today. It’s a shame, one decent 2-strike pitch to Rosario and it’s 3-2 heading into the 8th.

    Edgin was the one guy in the organization besides Harvey who actually outperformed expectations in 2012. Very disappointing to see the big step back in velocity, movement, and location. Hopefully it’s merely a slump… or, he could be showing us why he was a nobody in 2011.

    It seems to me that the Mets have had trouble with Garland types for the last 6+ years. They can work counts and hit mistakes off nibblers and strikeout pitchers, but give them some guy who just lobs every pitch into the strike zone with a bit of movement, and the Mets will instantly dribble it toward the nearest fielder. They need to take some notes from how the division torched Pelfrey back in the day. The Phillies would sit on the sinker away and line it to left to ruin his Plan A, knowing they could tee off on his Plan B if he ever switched it up.

    I will give Garland credit for keeping just about every pitch around the knees, though.

  2. DaveSchneck April 19, 2013 at 7:30 am
    This pitching staff, as currently constituted, is that of a 100+ loss team. Jeremy Hefner, Saturday’s starting pitcher, has given up five homers in 10 innings.
  3. Walnutz15 April 19, 2013 at 9:57 am
    Be it:

    - Jordany Valdespin putzing around with straight-up basehits to LF – like he had a trampoline in his glove……or
    - the flat-out terrible performances from the bullpen, to the
    - “get me outta here” AB’s they took vs. Jon Garland for 7 innings…..

    Yesterday was the next big flashing sign that this team flat-out wasn’t ready to play – or didn’t want to, given being cooped-up in Colorado for a handful of days.

    …..and that’s annoying to see, so early in the season.