Mets Game 83: Win Over Brewers

Mets 12 Brewers 5

A good way to start off a road trip.

Mets Game Notes

The Mets hit, hit, and hit some more, led by Kirk Nieuwenhuis. When did he join the club? Fourteen hits in all by the boys from Flushing, who were also aided by three Milwaukee errors. But do you care more about the offensive outburst, or how Zack Wheeler pitched?

Per corporal Terry Collins‘ edict, Zack Wheeler threw lots of fastballs. According to BrooksBaseball’s PITCHf/x, the count was 80 fastballs, 14 sliders, and 4 curves — that seems fairly correct. Apparently, the Brewers can’t read, don’t subscribe to newspapers, and/or don’t have internet access, lest they would’ve been aware that they’d be seeing plenty of fastballs in this ballgame. Perhaps in the future, Collins can tell the media how the Mets plan to attack every individual hitter, rather than offering a general strategy.

Of course, it’s much easier to throw fastballs when you’re up by four or five runs early in the game, as the opposition should be taking a strike. Still, Wheeler reached 80 pitches after four innings, and his velocity wasn’t in that 98-99 MPH range that made him such an exciting prospect. Instead, he was hanging in the 95-97 range, slipping to 93-95 in his last two innings, which is still pretty darn fast. But, it’s mildly concerning that Wheeler’s velocity has dropped a few MPH so quickly after a few innings. I imagine part of it has to do wit all of the mechanical adjustments thrown upon him by Dan Warthen; when and athlete is thinking, he’s slowing himself down just a bit. I hope that’s the problem, rather than my more serious fear: an arm issue. At some point in the next few years, Wheeler is very likely to have a shoulder and/or elbow injury, because his hand is not where it needs to be when his front foot comes down — it’s a good two beats behind most of the time. That means his arms and legs are not in sync, which means his arm is “shouldering” (pardon the pun) most of the load.

Speaking of dangerous mechanics, Milwaukee starter Johnny Hellweg is an injury waiting to happen. He stands almost completely straight up throughout his motion and through the release, so all the stress of deceleration is put on the shoulder. Further, he often slings the ball from a low three-quarter slot, putting strain on the elbow. It reminds me quite a bit of Rob Dibble or Brad Penny. Hellweg throws a hard fastball that reached the upper 90s, but I didn’t see a legit off-speed pitch, so my guess is his future will be in the bullpen. Or an operating table.

When Tyler Thornburg was in the game, and the announcers kept mentioning his name, I couldn’t stop thinking about that 1980s miniseries “The Thorn Birds.”

Ike Davis blasted a 66-hop single past the pitcher in his first at-bat to drive in a run. In his second at-bat, he slashed a long single into the right-center gap. In at-bat three, he struck out looking on a pitch in a similar location that ended the bottom half of the previous inning for Wheeler. At-bat four was a liner to RF, and he pulled a 3-1 pitch into RF in his final at-bat. I would stop short of saying he looks confident at the plate, but he does look more sure of himself than he did prior to be demoted. Mechanically, I see a few adjustments, but he’s still off-balance and hitting off of his front foot, pulling everything. That’s not good for most hitters, but if he can get his timing right he can go on a hot streak and hit some balls a long way — just don’t expect him to hit for a high average.

With the score 9-5 and the bases loaded in the top of the ninth, Bobby Parnell was warming up in the bullpen. Really? After pitching in each of the previous two games, and with your team up by four, and about to score more runs? I mean, I get that the Mets relievers have been pretty bad lately, but gee whiz, is the plan to run the one reliable arm into to the ground as well?

Next Mets Game

Game two begins at 7:15 p.m. The pitching matchup is Shaun Marcum vs. Yovani Gallardo.

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 July 6, 2013 at 4:24 pm
    I’m not sure what the scouts saw in Wheeler. Velocity is nice, but a top-10 prospect in baseball? Really? I don’t see any difference from tons of other random hard throwers who have no idea where the ball is going. Doesn’t every team trot out some guy who can touch 97 and occasionally throws a nasty hook, but most of his pitches are either off the plate or down the middle, and he’s not fooling anyone? And isn’t that guy usually pitching the 6th inning in relief?

    I’d rather Wheeler be focusing on development now. If he can do that in the majors, okay, but I’m skeptical. The quality of the opposition doesn’t even matter — right now the battle is Zack Wheeler vs Zack Wheeler, to come within a foot of the target on more than one pitch out of five. I’d say, let him fight that battle in the minors until he wins it, then start worrying about the guys in the box. I did not like hearing Wheeler refer to Juan Francisco as, “a guy you really can’t make a mistake on.” Juan Francisco, people.

    If no one could hit Wheeler’s stuff, then I’d at least be optimistic for some Nolan Ryan excitement, but that’s clearly not the case. When his fastball’s been in the strike zone, it’s produced a lot of line drives. To succeed, he’s going to need to pitch, and that looks pretty far away at this point. Oh, Giancarlo Stanton trade rumors, where have you gone?

    • Joe Janish July 6, 2013 at 11:22 pm
      I’m thinking similarly re: Wheeler — he looks like he might turn into a middle reliever.

      I was under the impression that what excited the scouts was great sinking movement on his fastball. It’s hard to see that from the CF camera angle that we are stuck with.

      Of course, it’s still very early in his career, but his body language concerns me more than anything else. He doesn’t appear to be a competitor or someone with a lot of confidence.

      • Dan B July 7, 2013 at 8:33 am
        Do you think Harvey’s success put pressure on Wheeler? Or the Met’s plan to build around him and Harvey? Or that he was traded straight up for one of the starting outfielders in the all star game? Hopefully he can forget all of that and focus on being the best pitcher he can be.
  2. NormE July 6, 2013 at 6:07 pm
    I fear that you are correct, but I remain optimistic that something will click (in the brain, not the arm) and he may yet learn to pitch rather than throw.
  3. crozier July 7, 2013 at 6:41 pm
    I find the coming-to-bury-Wheeler-not-to-praise-him comments (here and elsewhere) hilarious. It’s so New York to construct a narrative after a few games.

    Give him time, people. He’s still a kid, and he could struggle all year, like a lot of good-to-great pitchers did before figuring it out.

    • Joe Janish July 8, 2013 at 2:19 am
      Is it “New York” or “objective” ?

      This guy was hyped as the second coming ever since he was obtained from San Francisco, to the point where Matt Harvey was an afterthought. With that kind of build-up, I think it’s very fair to judge him objectively.

      Yes, many good-to-great pitchers struggled before figuring it out. But Wheeler has two very concerning issues: lack of confidence and a mechanical flaw that almost assuredly will lead to serious arm problems. It’s worrisome to see two huge red flags like that from a pitcher who has been touted as a top ten or top twenty prospect in all of baseball.

      • crozier July 8, 2013 at 4:49 pm
        Since you’re giving me a choice, I choose “New York.” I respect your observations and hear your warnings, but it’s just too early to draw conclusions, or even be terribly concerned. He may lack confidence, he may have flaws in his mechanics — and he may overcome them. I’m happy to pick up the discussion in September, or next year.