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.