Mets Game 1: Loss to Nationals

Nationals 9 Mets 7

If nothing else, it was an exciting ballgame — from inning one through ten.

Mets Game Notes

Sure, the Mets lost. But there’s no reason to walk off the ledge. Similarly, had they won, it wouldn’t have been enough reason to believe they’d win 90 games. It’s one game. It’s a long season. We’ll endure it together, here, regardless of how it goes.

I have to admit, if I didn’t have a full-time job, I likely would have wrote a post in the morning, the minute the lineup was made public, lambasting the Mets / Terry Collins for batting Juan Lagares second, Andrew Brown fifth, and starting Eric Young, Jr. at second base. In the end, the only reason the Mets had a chance was BECAUSE of Lagares and Brown, and Young’s play at 2B was largely irrelevant. I’m man enough to accept egg on my face, even if that post never happened (over-easy, please?).

Dillon Gee started well, hurling a clean initial inning, gave up a two-run bomb to Adam LaRoche in the second frame, then set down the next 15 batters he faced.

Then came the seventh inning, when Gee tired and the Mets bullpen couldn’t throw a strike.

Scott Rice‘s body language and facial expressions were questionable from the time he took the ball and threw his first pitch — he looked unsure of himself, lacking confidence. Four straight balls from his white-knuckled hand forced in the tying run in the 7th.

Jose Valverde was quite the opposite, both in body language and in results. However, I can see why he’s had arm injuries in the past and can envision more in the future, because he doesn’t have any kind of follow-through — all of the onus of deceleration is placed on his arm. He has a terrible habit of abruptly stopping his arm’s natural progression after release and whipping it back while standing upright; this method of “slamming on the brakes” puts undue stress on the arm. A better plan is to allow the arm and head to continue forward and down, with the hand passing somewhere between the front knee and ankle as it slows down gradually, and allows the lower body to be incorporated in “easing on the brakes.”

The seventh inning was more or less the turning point in the game. With runners on second and third, two out, and a one-run game, Terry Collins went to Carlos Torres. Really? If that’s your “fireman,” I’m sorry, I don’t see your team winning 90 games. There has been much discussion by the sabermetric crowd suggesting that closers should be used in such situations, and I have to agree (yes, I CAN agree with statheads!). Since I grew up watching baseball in the 1970s and 1980s, I remember the term “fireman,” and it was quite different from “closer.” The “fireman” was Goose Gossage, Bruce Sutter, Sparky Lyle, Rollie Fingers, Dan Quisenberry, Jim Kern, Bill Campbell, etc. — there would be a guy who came into a heated situation in the 7th, 8th, or 9th, and he’d have to find a way to get out of it (and usually, keep pitching until the 27th out). There is the classic case of Lyle coming in to the 4th inning of Game Four of the 1977 ALCS and earning a 5-inning save (he came back the next day in the 8th inning to earn another save and nail down the AL Championship). Of course, the fourth inning is a little early, but I’m completely on board with using your best weapon in what could turn out to be the most important situation of the game. I get the idea of “shortening the game” by having a 9th-inning specialist, but don’t understand the logic behind holding so tight to the shortened-game plan that you give the opposition a chance in the 6th, 7th, or 8th.

Of course, as it turned out, Bobby Parnell blew the save in the 9th. That doesn’t necessarily mean he would’ve blown the game in the 7th, though. My point is, you don’t want to lose a game with your best available pitcher sitting on the bench. Get the outs that you need to get, worry about getting the rest of them later. It’s generally easier to retire hitters with no runners on base, and/or at the start of a “clean” inning — isn’t that a better position in which to put the 10th-, 11th, or 12th-best pitchers on your staff?

Interesting to see Stephen Strasburg as a junkballer, only a few years removed from being a triple-digit-MPH, eighth wonder of the world. Similarly, Bobby Parnell’s first few fastballs were clocked at 89, 90, and 91 MPH. In both cases, we will chalk it up to the cold weather and hope for the best.

Strasburg, by the way, has added a slider to his repertoire. Why, I’m not entirely sure, especially considering his history of elbow issues. He already has a wipeout curveball, and, more importantly, a decent change-up — the change-up has been proven by science to be the least-stressful of all pitches, and particularly in regard to the elbow. One would think that Nats management — which has been so careful about limiting Strasburg’s effort — would encourage him to throw his change-up more and make it more effective, rather than have him learn and work on a more stressful pitch. But what the heck do I know? I only look at science.

The decision to bring in John Lannan in the tenth to face lefty-hitting Adam LaRoche was especially puzzling; is Lannan supposed to be the second LOOGY? If so, I don’t understand it, considering that Lannan’s best pitch is a change-up to righthanded hitters, and his career splits vs. RH and LH hitters are fairly even — he doesn’t really fit the mold of a LOOGY, as his slider is only his third-best pitch and not overwhelmingly effective against most lefthanded hitters.

Despite resulting in the go-ahead sacrifice fly, Ian Desmond had a terrible at-bat in the tenth, trying to pull an outside pitch and chasing another at his eyes with men on second and third. Maybe he, like many others on both teams, was amped up because it was Opening Day. Jeurys Familia bailed him out by hanging a slider.

Good thing the Mets have Tuesday off, considering that Collins used 6 relievers. I wonder if he would have made as many pitching changes if there was a game on Tuesday? We’ll never know.

There was much buzz about the number of strikeouts by Mets hitters in 2013, and how their offseason acquisitions did nothing to remedy that issue. Well, in game one of 2014, Mets hitters struck out 18 ties. Eighteen. Yes, there was an extra inning, but that’s still almost two strikeouts per inning. That’s atrocious. What makes it even more frightening is that a) whiff-wonder Chris Young wasn’t in the lineup; and b) wind-machine Ike Davis was the only position player who didn’t contribute to the total. What if Davis had his normal two-K day, and/or Young had five at-bats? Might the Mets have struck out over twenty times?

Leadoff hitter Eric Young, Jr. had four at-bats and struck out four times. Yet, he had an RBI. That’s not an easy feat. Neither is it easy to win when the batter who comes to the plate the most times in the game, is retired every time he makes a plate appearance.

But hey, the Braves proved last year that it doesn’t matter how many times a team strikes out, so long as they win games. Oh, wait …

Next Mets Game

Tuesday is a day off for the Mets and Nats — no foolin’! The Mets and Nationals do it again on Wednesday at 7:10 PM. Bartolo Colon makes his Mets debut against Gio Gonzalez.

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. david April 1, 2014 at 12:09 am
    Joe, I saw half the game and to my eyes it turned when EY failed to handle Harper’s hot smash in the 7th. Insteady of 2 outs, the inning spun out of control. Then TC put EY in LF and pulled Brown from the game, only to have EY make a bad thrown on Denard Span’s “double” to tie the game. TDA’s passed ball was the other notable non bullpen error, but on balance the team still played better than I expected and I too give TC guts for trotting out that lineup and even swapping Duda in for Ike after Davis failed to get a hit in his 3 ABs. TC also showed no willingness to let Torres or Rice continue when neither could throw a strike – to me he is letting the players know play time is over and performance matters more now than last year. Pity the headlnies could not have been Papa Grande and Lagares, esp. Lagares, his HR was clutch and totally unexpected on a ball that was in on his hands.
    • Izzy April 1, 2014 at 5:51 am
      What one sees is quite amazing. I saw Davis taken out on a double switch. Do you think Collins was punishing Davis for not whiffing like the rest of the clowns in the lineup. do you really get impressed thinking a guy is going to be punished for making a few outs? Do you think Ike Davis is too studpid to know the game counted, that his career is a mess? He needs Terry Collins to humiliate him by removing him for no reason to tell him that. And do you really think that Collins removed Torres and Rice for throwing balls. You have never seen him work his tail off to burn out hi bullpen with his never ending over use of as many relievers as possible. So I gues she left Lannan in because he threw a strike, no matter it went 450 feet. Since Terry is so properly into punishing players what punishment did he heap on Granderson, who clearly, for whatever reason, was the worst player in a Met uniform???? I guess fanning the patrons all day doesn’t warrant punishment, but making contact does.
  2. Bobby April 1, 2014 at 12:22 am
    It frustrates and even befuddles myself how a team can develop SP but can’t seem to develop a couple of young gun electric armed relievers to go along with those SP. It’s a sin to sabotage the Mets good young SP rotation except for of course Colon with a journeyman oriented bullpen with now even Parnell a huge ?
  3. crozier April 1, 2014 at 12:25 am
    Top half of the order: 6-22, 6 runs, 7 RBI.

    Bottom half: 1-13, 1 run, 0 RBI.

    I can’t say I was surprised by that.

  4. argonbunnies April 1, 2014 at 2:06 am
    Today’s mistakes:
    – Sticking with Gee too long in a close game after he’d clearly run out of gas (“he’s only at 90 pitches, he must have more” is just as stupid as “he’s up to 115, he must be done”; USE YOUR EYES).
    – Placing EY so deep in LF that he couldn’t get to a routine fly ball to medium-shallow left.
    – Bringing in a 1-pitch pitcher for a 1-run save. Did Parnell tell anyone he wouldn’t throw his curve today, and they brought him in anyway? Or did he not tell anyone?
    – Maybe not warming up Torres until too late? See below.

    Failed execution:
    – EY reaching past Harper’s liner at 2B (it hit the heel of his glove).
    – EY swung at a lot of balls; not a good way to follow uphis Luis Castillo impression from spring training.
    – Granderson took a down and in fastball — his favorite spot! — for strike 3. In a sac fly situation, woulda been nice to see him shorten up and fight some pitches off.
    – Carlos Torres clearly wasn’t ready to pitch. Dunno whether it was physical or mental, but he missed way high, way low, and way outside. GKR only mentioned Rice warming up before Torres entered…
    – Facing a light-hitting lefty with the bases loaded, Rice really just needed to throw his sinker down the middle. NO excuse for a walk there.

    Good things:
    – Until he tired, Gee was an absolute artist out there. He didn’t have his best curve/slider/change, but he used them effectively, and he was pinpoint with his fastball, sinking and running it on/off the corners. He really only made one bad pitch before the 7th, it just happened to be to the wrong guy.
    – Lagares showed a nice mix of patience and aggressiveness at the plate.
    – Andrew Brown can still crush a mistake!

    • DaveSchneck April 1, 2014 at 8:29 am
      AB,
      To follow up, the bullpen was an obvious train wreck yesterday. As Joe said, it’s one game, either way. That said, Alderson has assemble a bad bullpen, plain and simple. Why? Because he (or the owners) cheaped out. Parnell was good for part of last season before he got hurt. He has never had a complete season as a successful closer, and now he is still recovering from an injury and apparently has yet to recover his full repertoire. Valverde was great yesterday, but he should have been signed as an option for the 7th, while a more legit 8th inning pitcher should have been signed (if it is really time to get better). Counting on Black after 10 good Sept. innings is/was a joke. Another joke is with the LOOGY – Rice had a great year last year, but how quickly Alderson forgets that he was a career minor leaguer, and more importantly, that Collins completely abused his arm last year (which most agree results in lesser performance in subseauent years).

      The team recorded 30 outs yesterday, 18 by way of the whiff. As compared to 7 hits, the Mets are on their way to an all-time disparity between Ks and hits. EYjr had the golden sombrero on opening day. Having abackup 2nd basemen that played like 10 innings there in ST and hasn;t played there in years is just business as usually with a crappy roster construction that Alderson has provided.

      Lagares was a bright spot. Not sure about C Young, but I hope Lagares plays daily, but I hope Collins doesn’t get seduced into hitting him leadoff if EYjr starts 1-18. I still think C Young is the best leadoff options, but really this is just another hole that Alderson has left on the squad. Lets see – 1B, SS, 8th inning,

      Gee was also impressive, and it is a pleasure watching a guy that really pitches, even when he doesn’t have the A stuff.

      Hey, they were due to lost an opening day sooner or later, and that was a tough way to lose. That said, the management has once again delivered a flawed team with a flawed roster. Looks like another “extended spring training” practice season in Flushing.

      • argonbunnies April 1, 2014 at 2:11 pm
        Agreed, though in defense of Black, I will say that his stuff looked very good last year and his minor league K rates are fantastic. It wasn’t just 10 innings’ results they were banking on.
  5. Bobby April 1, 2014 at 2:30 am
    It’s seems like Grandy is going to take awhile to learn and adjust to pitching in the NL. Except for a liner to Span, Grandy wasn’t on any other pitch thrown to him today. Including ST, Grandy is now just 5 for his last 49 inc. 18 SO.
  6. meticated April 1, 2014 at 4:19 am
    well there goes winning 162…isn’t this where the insurance agent Ralph mcfeirson accosted Bill Murray and ad nauseum ….admittedly some bright spots shone thru but its like the scratch on your reading glasses…you can’t continue to pretend its not permanently scarred and its time to discard them and replace them anew
    ..its been 8 years since the curveball …have I expiated my karma yet?…
  7. Dan42 April 1, 2014 at 5:47 am
    Can’t believe Tug McGraw was omitted from the fireman list. As for the game, I was pleasantly surprise by the starting lineup, but Granderson’s continued lack of production is troubling.
  8. DanB April 1, 2014 at 9:24 am
    * if there were men on second and third with one out and game tied, you send up your best pinch hitter and not save him for the ninth. So why not do the same with your best reliever?
    * If Montero and Syndergaard were on the Cardinals, at least one of them would be in their bullpen. And they would find a way to pay them later.
    * strikeouts don’t bother me in the right situation. The odds of getting a hit is higher with three solid swings compared to two swings and one safety swing. However, a lot of Mets give away their first strike (I am looking at you, Mr. Duda) and others don’t seem to understand when a safety swing is an appropiate swing. If they were better situational hitters, it would help compensate for their lack of skill.
    • DaveSchneck April 1, 2014 at 10:27 am
      Dan,
      All great points. The lack of depth at the back end of the pen, combined with better arms sent to AAA, costs dearly in the 6th and 7th innings, where the game is often decided.

      With all this “philosphy” about hitting, baseball novices (like me) can watch the game an realize the pitcher can lay one in on the first pitch to gain the 0-1 advantage. That ain’t changing until some of these “hitters” start making pitchers pay for first pitch cookies.

  9. argonbunnies April 1, 2014 at 2:08 pm
    You guys are all missing the fact that Carlos Torres may actually be the Mets’ best reliever.
  10. Amazin' No More April 2, 2014 at 1:49 am
    Great write up, Joe, as usual.

    But how could Sparky Lyle get a 5 inning save? Who would have had the win? Surely not the starter. I think you’ll find Lyle got the win for going 5 innings. Cool story, though.

    The way Collins uses his so-called bullpen is painful to watch. Bad talent and managerial incompetence in equal measure.