Mets Game 76: Loss To Nationals

Nationals 6 Mets 4

Matt Harvey continues to be a disappointment.

Mets Game Notes

Sure, Harvey held the Nats hitless through the first four frames and allowed only one run on three hits and no walks, striking out 11 in 7 innings. But what did he do with the bat? NOTHING. A big, fat, 0-for-3, and his batting average for the season has now plummeted to .128. I mean, yeah, it’s great that he can chuck the ball a bit, but if he can’t even hit his weight, what’s the point of keeping him on the 25-man roster? Surely there is a moundsman in Las Vegas who can swing the stick.

Should Terry Collins have left Harvey in for the 8th — and possibly the 9th? Even though he was dominating, and was clearly the Mets’ best chance to win, it was time to remove the young superstar. No, the Mets didn’t win, and yes, Harvey was saddled with yet another no-decision. But 2013 means nothing to the Mets, and is merely a development year for young Matt Harvey. I don’t put much stock into “the Verducci Effect” as I don’t put much stock into counting innings, period. But I DO pay attention to pitch counts, and more importantly, to body language and mechanics as a pitcher works through a ballgame. Injuries occur when an athlete is fatigued. Fatigue for a pitcher generally sets in when he pushes himself beyond the pitch count for which he’s conditioned. My assumption (could be wrong) is that Harvey is conditioned for about 110-115 pitches. When he exited the ballgame, he was at 109 tosses, and had just finished a 23-pitch inning, which is more than you’d like. Could he have gone another inning? Sure. Is it worth pushing him right now? Nope. I would like to see him get up to 115 pitches, and eventually, 120 at some point, but there’s no urgency to get there in late June. I’d rather see him stay in that 105-115 pitch range through the end of July (assuming he doesn’t show any breakdown in mechanics) and allow him to throw 220-230 innings by the end of the season. Of course, that won’t happen — likely, the Mets will shut him down at some predetermined, arbitrary innings limit (my guess is around 215, maybe 220). It’s completely illogical to judge a 35-pitch inning the same as a 5-pitch inning, but that’s what is done by the cavemen in charge of MLB personnel. Regardless, it was the right move for the long-term health and development of Harvey to take him out.

Unfortunately for Harvey and the Mets, the bullpen finally faltered after a nice two-week stretch of goodness. David Aardsma finally cracked, Josh Edgin predictably stunk, and Brandon Lyon was unsharp — perhaps because he hadn’t pitched in several days. In contrast, Bobby Parnell had nothing, perhaps because he’d pitched the previous two consecutive days and is throwing with shoulder tendinitis that requires more rest than the average bear.

So here’s a problem: who comes in to close if the Mets need someone to shut the door in the ninth on Saturday? After three straight appearances, with the third so abysmal, you have to guess that Parnell will be given a day off. Is Lyon the closer? Aardsma?

Remember when Ian Desmond was an awful fielder, and an error machine? He did make an error in this game, but it was the first time he made one in almost 70 games. How did he improve his defense so dramatically? Practice, practice, practice. As has been mentioned before on this blog, fielding proficiency is less about raw skills and more about practicing proper mechanics. Great fielders are made more often than they are born.

Big pitch came in the bottom of the 8th, with Tyler Clippard pitching against Eric Young, Jr. with a 1-2 count and two outs. Young check-swinged at a pitch out of the strike zone for ball two. Or did he? Hard to know for sure, because Kurt Suzuki didn’t ask the home plate umpire to ask for help. It turned out to be moot, as Young eventually grounded out. But still — what if he had driven in the go-ahead run there? Why didn’t Suzuki ask for help? Maybe the third-base umpire would have upheld the ball call, but then again, maybe he wouldn’t have. The point is, kids, if you are a catcher, and if there’s ever a hint of doubt regarding whether the hitter swung or not, ASK the umpire to ask for help. You never know.

Terrible pitch calling / selection by Drew Storen to David Wright in the bottom of the ninth with one out. Down two with one out and red-hot Marlon Byrd on deck, Wright is taking a strike in that situation, yet Storen started him off with a breaking ball off the outside part of the plate, giving Wright a 1-0 advantage. He threw the fastball next pitch to get the first strike, then followed with another breaking pitch in an almost identical location off the plate to make it 2-1. As it was, Wright flied out to RF on the next pitch, but that’s not necessarily the point — a bad sequence is a bad sequence. Catchers calling the game need to be completely aware of the situation and call pitches based on situation. I’m not suggesting that Storen should have thrown a meatball over the heart of the plate to start off Wright. But, he should have thrown his best pitch — a fastball — with the expectation that Wright was taking and the intention of getting strike one. If Wright does swing in that situation and puts it out of the park, no big deal — the Nats are still up by a run with a very shaky rest of the Mets lineup coming up.

Mets squandered a huge opportunity to open up the game in the fourth, after scoring a run and having men on second and third with no outs. No more scoring after that, though, which is a travesty.

It was noted that the Nats left the infield back during that situation — no outs, men on second and third, down one. With Harvey dominating, did that make sense? Yes, because while bringing in the infield might offer the opportunity to cut down a second run, keeping it back means there’s less chance of a two-run single. It’s all about balancing potential outs vs. potential runs. Outs are finite (generally speaking), while runs are not.

How important to a pitcher’s effectiveness is velocity? Prime example came in the third and fourth plate appearances by Anthony Rendon. In #3, Harvey baited Rendon with high-90s fastballs to the outside part of the plate, then buried him with breaking stuff off the plate. In Rendon’s fourth PA, the same strategy was employed by Brandon Lyon, who barely breaks 90 MPH. Rendon spit on several of those bait pitches before walking with two outs in the eighth (he eventually scored the tying run). When a pitcher has velocity, the batter has to commit one way or the other much earlier. That’s not to say Lyon can’t be effective sitting in the high 80s — but it does mean he has much less room for error and needs to have pinpoint control.

Next Mets Game

Game two begins at 1:10 p.m. on Saturday afternoon. Dillon Gee faces Taylor Jordan.

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. Wohjr June 29, 2013 at 2:42 am
    The one thing that sticks with me from this gamewas Harvey throwing lotsa balls with his fastball. Many strikes on off speed stuff. Is that just me?
    • Jon C June 29, 2013 at 7:55 am
      I don’t think Harvey was necessarily throwing more balls out of the strike zone, I think the nats just might be starting to learn to lay off that rising fastball (its usually a ball, but he gets so many swing/misses on it). But try as they might, its still too tempting and as Joe mentioned in the article, with that velocity the hitter has to commit early. We’ll see how NL east teams continue to adjust to him as the season goes on. Fun to watch 😀
  2. Dan B June 29, 2013 at 4:14 am
    Do you think Davey Johnson told Ian Desmond his Brooks Robinson story?
  3. DaveSchneck June 29, 2013 at 8:49 am
    I have no gripe with removing Harvey after 7 innings and 109 pitches. However, removing Aardsma, to me, was a joke. I know Span has a low BA vs a lefty, but as you noted, Edgin has stunk all year, and Aardsma, while not the pitcher he was, has been good this year and has a closer pedigree. He can’t get a crack at finishing the 8th up 3 with 2 outs and his runner on first? This is the modern over managing, and to me bad managing.
    • Dan42 June 29, 2013 at 8:57 am
      My thoughts exactly, a bad move regardless of Edgin’s problems.
  4. norme June 29, 2013 at 1:06 pm
    TC is managing by the book. Unfortunately he is using the wrong book or he is illiterate. The key is not necessarily R/L match-ups, but using the best talent available for the situation. I’m guessing that he was saving Torres in case the game went into extra innings. In that case it was clear to me that Aardsma is the better talent than Edgin. But, TC can use the excuse that he “went by the book” but the players didn’t produce.
    A sad excuse for a manager/leader.
    • SL June 30, 2013 at 5:58 am
      Pretty close to right on, but it’s even worse than that. Simple common sense will tell you that when you get into your bullpen, you’re bringing in the 6th-12th best pitchers on the team. Every time you bring one in, you increase the odds that someone will have an off day.

      But in THIS case, how do we even know someone was having an off day? You take Edgin out after one hitter? Let alone removing Aardsma for the right lefty b/s.

      Worse, Lyon, if you go by Terry’s mythologic book, has had righties hit almost .300 against him. I guess that book is fiction, or the “How to mishandle a bullpen in 5 easy steps” manual.

      • DaveSchneck June 30, 2013 at 10:34 pm
        Agreed. As Norme states, TC was managing by the book, but he’s got the wrong book. Although the sample size is small, it appears to me that Aardsma is clearly the 2nd best pitcher in the pen, behind Parnell. That means he gets the 8th inning until proven he has screwed it up. Retiring 2 of 3 hitters, allowing a sinle, in 12 pitches, with a 3 run lead, is not screwing it up. Edgin has no business pitching in the 8th inning with a lead based on his performance this year. Aardsma is an intersting acquisition, and if anyone should be put in a growth position it should be him, and for several reasons. First, the Mets can use a legit 8th inning pitcher to get the ball to Parnell, and with his resume he fits the profile. Second, if he continues to look good, he can be used as trade bait. Third, if they trade Parnell, he will become the closer. I have not been all over Collins, but tht move was dreadful on so many levels.
  5. TexasGusCC June 29, 2013 at 4:12 pm
    Ditto, Dave, Dan, and Norme. It bothered me as he was doing it. Up 4-1, 2 outs, man on first and THE Denard Span coming up? At the time, I looked at it as just making a change to make one. Boy, was I upset later. And if I was upset, times that by how players played that game.
  6. AC Wayne June 30, 2013 at 12:33 am
    Sometimes you blame the BP, sometimes you blame the one who’s managing that BP. I was so upset w/Collins’ decision to not allow Aardsma to finish what he had started. All great points above, up 3 runs, 2 outs, experience closing. Again, Collins referred to his MLB Managing for Dummies manual in the 8th on Friday night. 🙁
    • Micalpalyn June 30, 2013 at 3:02 pm
      ..are we second guessing? Yes.
      But how often do these moves work for terry? Not. Very often.
    • Dan42 June 30, 2013 at 7:19 pm
      When the Dbacks arrive for 4 games it will be interesting to see who makes the poorest moves, Collins or Gibson. My money would be on Collins for total number, but on Gibson for worst.
  7. argonbunnies June 30, 2013 at 2:26 am
    If Span is one of those guys who simply can’t hit lefties, and any old lefty can easily retire him, then fine, go ahead and bring in Edgin.

    Otherwise (as is the case), stick with the pitcher who’s pitching decently, instead of assuming that another one or two or three or four pitchers (as it turned out) will all pitch decently. Every time you bring in a new arm, you’re running a risk. When that risk is clearly greater than standing pat, stand pat.

    If you think Lyon and Rice are the guys to get those outs, start the inning with them. Don’t warm them up as a back-up plan. Warm-ups cause fatigue too. If you think Aardsma’s the guy, stick with him. If you want to give Rice a rest, stick to your guns and rest him.

    The whole inning struck me as bad planning followed by a bunch of reactionary moves.

    Seems like we all agree on this! Rare. Makes me think Terry’s mistake was truly obvious.

    The one thing I can say in his defense is that it was a growth opportunity for Edgin, to see if he can be part of the team’s future. I’m all in favor of that.

    • Dan42 June 30, 2013 at 7:21 pm
      Growth experiences are good, but I doubt many of us would consider this particular event a wise choice for one.