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?).
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 …