Mets ST Game 3: Cardinals

The Mets get blown out again, but no worries — it’s still early in the spring training season and these games don’t count, anyway.

Overall, the Cardinals looked like they were ready for Opening Day, while the Mets didn’t. Solely looking at body language — and I’m not sure if it’s a confidence thing, or having something to do with preparation, or each player knowing what their role is — the Cardinals had their act together, appearing relaxed, yet focused and intense. Understand, though, that St. Louis had most of their starting players in the lineup, while the Mets were fielding mostly a mix of players who are competing for roster spots. It wasn’t a fair matchup.

The first Mets hit was a wind-blown, opposite-field, ground-rule double by Curtis Granderson. It was also the last Mets hit until the 8th inning, when Brandon Nimmo sliced an opposite-field fly ball into an open spot in the outfield for a single.

During that initial inning, the Mets mounted something of a rally, loading the bases against Michael Wacha, but were ultimately denied from scoring by the big righthander. In Wacha’s defense, he was getting squeezed by the home plate umpire, especially against Josh Satin — who appeared to have struck out looking twice, but wound up walking instead.

From there the Redbirds pounded Mets pitching and dominated the Mets hitters. A few random observations …

At the plate, Brandon Allen kind of looks like a slightly smaller version of Ryan Howard. It appears he’ll strike out about as often as Howard, as well. Now, if only he can hit the ball over the fence with similar frequency, the Mets may have something.

Peter Bourjos is damn fast.

Daisuke Matsuzaka didn’t necessarily pitch poorly, but he wasn’t fooling anyone, either. His curve was hanging.

Travis d’Arnaud and Josh Satin perfectly executed rundown between home and third base to deny a Redbird runner from scoring.

Jose Valverde looks relatively healthy, but not dominating (yet?).

I’m going to reserve judgment on Jack Leathersich, as I assume he was nervous in his first spring appearance and perhaps over-throwing. He had a really rough outing, having a hard time finding the strike zone, and usually firing the ball at the letters or higher.

The Cards have a TON of prospects. It seems their supply of young arms is unlimited, and they have several impressive position players who are on the cusp of breaking into the big leagues. Remember, St. Louis had a really rough stretch — just like the Mets — during which they rebuilt their farm system. Though, I don’t remember that stretch lasting five years; it was more like one — 2007, to be exact. In 2008, the Cardinals added Gary LaRocque to their organization — you might know him as the man who signed David Wright. LaRocque began with St. Louis as Senior Special Assistant to general manager John Mozeliak, moved to player development, and is now their farm director. Just sayin’.

Brandon Nimmo looks to have quick hands / a fast bat.

Ike Davis struck out three times, and seems to be trying to destroy every pitch coming his way. He’s usually way ahead of everything, and looks like he’s trying to pull every pitch over the right field wall.

Most of the Cardinals hitters seemed to be focused on letting the ball get deep and hitting other way.

The Cardinals even have strong young arms in their outfield — prospect Stephen Piscotty flashed his howitzer in throwing out Nimmo at plate on an attempted sacrifice fly.

Everyone knows the Cardinals traded David Freese to the Angels for Peter Bourjos. However, the sleeper in that deal might be the throw-in — outfielder Randal Grichuk. Grichuk has a nicely balanced stance and swing, and is really strong. He blasted a double to the center-field wall, and I like his body language — he looks confident and fierce. At the plate, he reminds me — a lot — of David Wright (though it could just be the bushy eyebrows making me feel that way). He’s only 22 but has five years of pro ball under his belt. As if the Cardinals needed any more prospects.

Did you watch the game on MLB.com? If so, let me know what you saw.

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. Izzy March 3, 2014 at 9:05 am
    I thought the highlite of the game was the mad Hungarian’s fascination with Nimmo, not Nimmo the prospect, but Nimmo the name. As for Matsuzaka, I agree with your review but on the plus side he threw quickly,whichfor him is kind of a miracle. The 31 year old utiity infielder looking for a job was pathetic, not even attempting to throw a guy out at third on a grounder to SS on a ball hit where every SS over 10 would throw him outat third. If this is our utility guy, please bring back Turner. Oh wait, they dumped him for being lazy. Idon’t think anyone is televising today. Probably a good thing. They seem to be under pressure trying to win those 90 games.
    More seriously the Cards have a fundamentally different approach to hitting then the Mets. While the Mets emphasizing standing there and taking as many pitches as possible until you get that perfect one, often getting ito a hole where you have to be defensive, the Cards work on situational hitting. They practice hitting to the right side with a guy on second and lifting the ball with a guy on third. It showed even in a practice game.And the Cards are the best hitting team at getting runners in for scoring position, while we cheer that walk
    • DaveSchneck March 3, 2014 at 10:36 am
      Izzy,
      The Mets’ utility infielder is actually Ruben Tejada, not the 31-year-old journeyman. However, unless Alderson finds a way to acquire a starting MLB SS before March 31, the utility guy will be the starter. I’m not sure how many 90 win teams have a utility guy as the starting SS. I guess the 2013 Cards did, but they also had all sorts of offense to overcome it.
      • Dan42 March 3, 2014 at 11:33 am
        All he needs to do is trade for one (Owings?), or convince the powers that be to invest in Drew so that they at least look like a Major League team.
      • Izzy March 3, 2014 at 3:25 pm
        Unless, he’s learned to play all 4 infield positions and a little bit of outfield, Tejada isn’t even a utility guy. And to Dan if a team really wants to try to win 90 games, wouldn’t you think they’d upgrade the weakest (by far) area of the team? A SS who can’t hit and can’t field like a SS is, as you say, not the regular on a 90 win team. I wish the big mouth Wilpons and Alderson would promise to leave if their talk was false. But alas, when it comes to phonies like Wilpon, talk is cheap. As for the Cards, wasn’t Furcal supposed to be their SS but got hurt and missed the year? I’m not positive but I think Kozma was a replacement. And Kozma probably has more range than Tejada who is a 2B man if that.
  2. argonbunnies March 4, 2014 at 7:35 am
    Leathersich looked terrible — cutting himself off, not finishing his pitches, arm not getting through in time to throw anywhere but up and away. Interestingly, this was much less so when he threw his breaking ball. On the plus side, despite the line score, the Cards weren’t exactly hitting rockets off him, and some of them looked a little uncomfortable against him. I couldn’t spot why his delivery would be deceptive, but it must be, somehow…

    Matsuzaka’s entire motion is much quicker than I remember it being, especially from the break through the stride. It was nice to see him working quickly, but it didn’t look like he was really getting behind his pitches — more of a quick toss than a drive. Maybe I’m wrong; without a radar gun, it’s hard to tell.

    Speaking of pitching motions, I didn’t realize last year how high Wacha’s release point is. It’s WAY up there. Looks like he’s working on a curve — I wonder if he’s raised the arm for that? Whatever the case, I hope he doesn’t shred his shoulder the way Webb did (some blamed his high arm slot for that).

  3. Peter March 4, 2014 at 12:59 pm
    Joe,

    It looks like you were spot on, as usual, pointing out Niese’s mechanical flaws. It would not surprise me if he misses most of the season due to shoulder issues.

    What did you think of Syndergaard’s mechanics? I don’t know if I can stomach you saying that he is headed for problems too. We need one dominant arm to stay healthy!

    • Joe Janish March 4, 2014 at 6:30 pm
      Peter, I haven’t yet seen Syndergaard’s mechanics “live” — neither in person, nor on TV. All I’ve seen are short clips from youtube from who knows when, and were mostly inconclusive. Of course, his spring training debut was not televised anywhere so we’ll have to wait and hope the next one will be broadcast.

      For the record, Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz definitely have correctable flaws that, left uncorrected, will lead to injuries (in Matz’s case, he’s already had TJ surgery and likely will need to have it again at some point in the future).

      • argonbunnies March 5, 2014 at 1:43 am
        I noticed something that’s changed in Wheeler’s motion from the 2012 videos — he’s shortened and quickened his stride. He’s always had this two-part stride, where he brings his left leg toward home and then, instead of putting it down, points his toe towards home and pushes for extra distance before landing. In the old videos, his arm was behind in the delivery at the point where it looked like he’d land, but by the time he actually landed, the arm was cocked. That’s no longer the case — the shorter stride isn’t giving his arm time to catch up. I don’t know whether this is important, but thought I’d mention it.

        I wonder if this is what happened to Lincecum? His stride also went from ridiculously long to more average, and maybe it’s messed up his timing for getting his arm through.

        As for Wheeler’s pitching, he looked good today. Velocity was unimpressive, but good location and good sink on the fastball. He also threw a few of those ugly breaking balls that never broke — he really looks like he’s still learning the pitch — but he also threw one curve that was unhittable.