Mets Game 78: Loss to Nationals

Nationals 13 Mets 2

Zack Wheeler‘s entrance to MLB competition is so far unlike that of Matt Harvey.

Mets Game Notes

Wheeler looked great in the first frame, but oh what a difference an inning makes.

The leadoff homer by Adam LaRoche seemed to fluster Wheeler — it took him out of his rhythm and crushed his confidence. Immediately after the blast, Wheeler changed from aggressively pounding the strike zone to nitpicking at the outside corner, causing him to fall behind and be forced into throwing fastballs with too much plate in hitters’ counts.

Additionally, Wheeler made some mechanical changes. First, his hand movement was minimized compared to his first two MLB starts. I’m guessing that was in part to make him more efficient but also with the goal of eliminating the pitch-tipping. That seemed to help somewhat, though not completely. Another tweak I noticed — and not sure it was intentional — was more upper-body rotation. I remember reading a while back that (in the minors) Wheeler was working on staying straight toward the plate, with his shoulder pointed to home, during leg lift. That seemed to be the case in his first MLB start, but in this contest vs. the Nationals, he was turning his front shoulder in and toward 3B / CF during leg lift, which in turn causes the shoulder to fly open prematurely, which in turn can decrease velocity and put more strain on the throwing shoulder. My best guess is Wheeler’s drop in velocity in this game was directly related to the front shoulder issue.

Clearly, Wheeler is a work in progress, rather than the polished, finished product that was Matt Harvey when Harvey was promoted to the big club last year. His mechanics need to be smoothed out, but more importantly, he needs to keep his confidence. Right now, his body language reminds me a bit of what we saw in Bobby Parnell‘s first few years — a look of slight fright and unsure at the slightest hint of adversity. With Parnell, gaining confidence was connected to learning a new pitch. With Wheeler, part of it will be finding and believing in a consistent delivery.

Meanwhile, Gio Gonzalez was stellar, allowing only three hits and two walks in seven innings. Though, it’s much easier to pitch with a four-run lead. He just kept pumping strike after strike at the Mets hitters — 84 of his 119 pitches were strikes (!).

Interesting to see Nats pitchers knock David Wright on his keister in two consecutive games. They’re not doing anything dirty — Wright is crowding the plate and the Nats are throwing inside. Curious to see if other teams adopt a similar philosophy.

Has Eric Young, Jr. cooled off? He’s 3 for his last 18.

In contrast, Josh Satin remains hot. Perhaps he should be moved up in the order, while his swinging a steaming stick?

Anthony Recker gave up two earned runs, but still pitched much better than Brandon Lyon.

Next Mets Game

Mets host the Arizona Diamondbacks for a four-game set beginning Monday at 7:10 p.m. The scheduled pitchers are Shaun Marcum and Wade Miley.

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. Dan B July 1, 2013 at 8:27 am
    On most teams, a pitcher of Wheeler’s potential would be given the opportunity to learn and develop. The Mets can’t afford that financially. They need him to be a draw like Harvey. I hope that pressure doesn’t affect Wheeler’s approach.!
  2. Walnutz15 July 1, 2013 at 9:12 am
    The funny thing about Zack Wheeler’s situation is:

    You had contingents of fans so certain that the Mets “know their players better than anyone else”.

    If that’s the case, then why is it that he went through Vegas undetected – with issues in his mechanics, only to tip his pitches from the first start he made at the Major League-level?

    This is something you pick up on right away, provided you’re worth your weight in Big League Chew.

    While I never expected Harvey2.0 – I did figure we’d see a guy to promoted without needing to go back and immediately go into “correction” mode —- for things that are obvious to the naked eye.

    - If this was something he was doing at Triple-A, then someone should have been working with him to fix it.

    - If it was something he did BECAUSE he was at Triple-A, (pitching in that environment) — it’s even worse.

    Doesn’t matter much right now, but I have a feeling they’ll be very busy with Wheeler by ST next year. (Don’t really know if that’s good or bad, given guys like Warthen’s track records. Hopefully, he’ll be gone by then – and not on his 3rd coaching regime within the organization.)

    Whatever changes they’ve started to implement now will take some time for gim to get comfortable with. I’m fine with seeing what plays out here…..but am left to scratch my head, as to what the Mets actually do at the Minor League ranks.

  3. DaveSchneck July 1, 2013 at 9:38 am
    Joe,
    After 3 starts, I am reading a lot of opinions that Wheeler is too raw, unpolished, and was rushed. I am not in the baseball business, but I am a little skeptical of all this skepticism. We can all see that he needs work, but is this so much unlike many other young prospects. Check out the numbers on Halladay, Glavine, and Maddux in their intitial seasons. Real ugly. I know NY is a fish bowl, and everything is amplified, but I don’t think it is the worst thing in the world to have Wheeler battle through some of this at the big league level. This is one benefit that is provided by a team being out of it so early. So long as he isn’t ovewhelmed and gets his confidence crushed, let’s see how he adjusts and hopefully progresses over the balance of the year. Like any big prospect, one never knows what he will be until he gets to the bigs and puts up a legitimate sample size. Also, I hope Mr. Lyon hasn’t paid his rent for July, as I don’t see him long for this team. He throws the same stuff on every pitch, be it his FB or his slider, I can’t see him getting anyone out when needed.
    • Walnutz15 July 1, 2013 at 9:44 am
      Oh, believe me — that’s fine, and I’m definitely on board with “the process” here at the Major League-level.

      3 starts is 3 starts.

      If Wheeler develops, and is as good as everyone expected him to be – then the Mets look like they “did the right thing” in keeping him at Vegas until the Super-2 Deadline was up.

      Otherwise, I’m not so sure he couldn’t have had the same kind of developmental year here – from even earlier on. (Frankly, I still stick to the thought that would have promoted him after a few starts of showing good health – post-clavicle strain…..but at that point, you always have that as a crutch to lean on, as “justification” for keeping him down.)

      To me, if you’re pitching relatively-well in those PCL parks – then chances are, you’re ready to see if you can do it against Major League hitters.

      However, when there’s a problem with tipping pitches…….in addition to not really putting guys away as a direct result — it’s a much bigger issue, and really — an indictment of the guys keeping tabs on his development over there.

      From the start, Wheeler was better than any of the back-end options trotted out by the Mets in the initial stages of the season – but when saying that, you’re talking about a guy like Aaron Laffey…..so it’s not really much of a comparison.

      The whole time, the Mets stuck to their “needs more polish” belief — and that’s fine — provided someone’s doing the polishing!

      To be brought up with obvious flaws in mechanics is the usual Met way.

      If you’re going to be feeding a generic company line, then you should probably be doing your part to see that he’s as ready as he can be – by the time he’s brought up. I don’t see that when 5 minutes into his career, you’ve got talk about tipping pitches and correcting mechanics.

      There wasn’t much of that as we went along, reading about his starts for the 51′s this year. I’m wondering why it’s only becoming an “initiative” now.

      Pitching to more contact is perfectly fine…….not everyone has to be a strikeout artist.

      Letting guys know what’s coming isn’t —- and the correction process centers around stepping outside your usual comfort zone, just to get a repeatable delivery down vs. a whole new class of pro hitters.

      Disappointing – not so much about Wheeler. I like the kid a lot and believe that he’ll become a very serviceable Major League starter.

      ……….just (another) big wart on the developmental plan for what’s supposed to be our best pitching prospect. At the very least, he should have his mechanics down pat.

  4. Garett July 1, 2013 at 11:54 am
    I agree Joe. Wheeler lacks confidence and you can see it in his face.He reminds me of big Mike Pelfry. He needs to just hang around Harvey and feed off of his ‘Swag’. That is what you need on the hill in the bigs. supreme confidence & Swagger……and that is hard to bring out of some of these humble southern boys…
  5. Mic July 1, 2013 at 1:25 pm
    Mike pelfrey: great comparison. If he is not harvey2.0, is he pelfrey2.0.? I would not be the only one (here) who thinks pel never overcame being rushed to Shea. In a nothing season does it make sense to keep rushing zach? After just a handful of AAA starts (which were not overwhelmingly great) zach has gotten his first taste. I for one have no issues with sending him back down to work out his mechanics.
  6. JoMama July 1, 2013 at 4:16 pm
    Call me ignorant but by the time they reach the bigs, aren’t things like “shaky confidence” worked out? I mean, in AAA only the best of the best get the call, so the assumption would be that by the time they reach the show, barring a few bumps here and there, confidence should be the last thing they lack. How sensitive are these guys? And how many players in the majors have big league quality stuff (be it batters and pitchers) but can’t stay up because their confidence gets shot? I know in this day of prima donna’s, these guys are pampered all their athletic lives but this seems kind of absurd.
  7. Mic July 1, 2013 at 6:50 pm
    Jo,
    Supposed to be. But if a pitcher has not had consistent success at AAA, how is he going to be assured at The big level? The answer is actually that some do succeed but zach should not be slighted if Wally has to take him back until September. As it is jake due groom, and montero are similarly poised and they should be able to feed off each other.

    Here is something of interest to me team: zach came to us for Carlos Beltran who clearly is not passed it,. But zach was like 3rd or 4th best of the giants pitching prospects. Right now zach is being hyped as ‘there’ but is he? Could Noah, Rafael montero, mike fulmer or jake due groom pass him? And finally ……as many other blogs point out…should/could zach be traded?

    Wilmer Flores is only 21. He is lighting up AAA. Shouldn’t he be up instead of Valdespin.

  8. It's Zack July 1, 2013 at 8:00 pm
    With a K.