Mets Game 5: Win Over Reds

Mets 6 Reds 3

Well, now who is going to play first base?

Mets Game Notes

I know what Mets fans are thinking: “Hey, we’ve got two beasts in Ike Davis and Lucas Duda!”

Strike while the iron is hot, Mr. Alderson, and trade one RIGHT NOW, before the gaping holes in their swings are exposed yet again.

Ike Davis’ walk-off grand slam was dramatic, yes. Exhilarating, in fact — for Davis, for his teammates, for Mets fans. And for Gary Cohen, of course. It was also a typical homerun for him — he was fooled on the pitch, way out in front, all his weight on his front foot, and he made contact at exactly the right time to hit the ball an extreme distance. It’s a method of hitting homeruns that was advocated by Charley Lau — though, he taught hitters such as Harold Baines and George Brett how to do it on purpose. With Davis, he hits mistakes, by mistake. Can he do it enough times to be valuable over the course of a season? Maybe. He did it often enough to swat 32 homers in 2012. Can he do it enough to overshadow other weaknesses in his game? We’ll see. For certain, he’s done it enough times this year to be worth it — it’s resulted in a win already, after all.

Naturally, I expect many of you to get on me for “being negative.” It’s OK, because I know you sometimes forget that this isn’t necessarily a “fan blog.” Rather, I’m a fan of the game, and I watch and comment without bias one way or the other — it’s more about the process than the results. And what I saw from Davis’ granny is the same I’ve seen from him for the past two-plus years: someone who hits mistakes by mistake. The scouting report on him is to throw hard stuff up, hard stuff in, or hard stuff out. Bounce an off-speed pitch outside once in a while to keep him honest. That’s why Davis has struggled to hit much over .200 — because the scouting report on him states that he has a long, complicated swing, and sometimes runs into mistakes.

Duda has a similar scouting report, except he tends to have more bat control / body control. He hits mistakes on purpose, with good, solid, balanced swings. But like Davis, he has holes. On this particular afternoon, Johnny Cueto was successful in getting swings and misses from Duda by keeping the fastball above the belt and middle-out. In contrast, the two homeruns Duda hit in game 4 against Mike Leake came on knee-high fastballs middle-in.

Cueto pitched well in his 7 innings of work, but did, however, make one mistake — a thigh-high, hanging cutter over the middle of the plate that Curtis Granderson transformed into his first homerun of the season. Granderson is another “mistake hitter,” though much more advanced than Duda. Duda is still learning to recognize and take advantage of mistakes, whereas Granderson seems to be looking and waiting for a mistake on every pitch. I’m not sure Duda can get away with that kind of approach; I think part of the reason Granderson can do that as his modus operandi is in part because he is an outstanding athlete.

Tough game for Dillon Gee, who more or less matched Cueto pitch for pitch, hurled another “quality start,” yet wound up with a no-decision. Much was made of his poor performance after 100 pitches. Well gee whiz, the stats were similar after 100 pitches for Pedro Martinez, and that’s part of the reason for this nonsensical 100-pitch standard in baseball. Of course Gee’s numbers are going to look bad after 100 pitches — they’re going to look worse for most starting pitchers in the game, because that many pitches means the hitters have seen you several times and are familiar with what you have on a given day. The question is, however, will the numbers be worse for a starter at pitch 105, or for the 11th-worst pitcher on your staff at pitch 1? If I’m the manager, and one of my best three pitchers is on the mound, and he isn’t showing me any sign of fatigue, I prefer to have him continue than replace him with a middle reliever who is likely my 9th- or 10th-best option. But that’s me — I want my opponent beating the best that I have available, rather than offering one of my worst.

Further, I think the numbers after 100 pitches are skewed because pitchers rarely go far beyond that count. Maybe my math is wrong, so stay with me and correct me if necessary. If Gee regularly throws between 100 and 110 pitches, then there are far less plate appearances in those 1-10 pitches above 100 than there are up to 100, right? Last year, Gee went above 100 pitches 11 times, with his highest total 109. How many plate appearances were there in those “extra” 9 pitches? Maybe two, on average? And how many times, once he went above 100, was he pulled from the game immediately after giving up a hit? I bet it was fairly often; we’d have to go back to every game Gee started and see. What if, instead of being pulled, Gee stayed in some of those games (assuming he was showing no sign of fatigue) and threw 120-130 pitches? Would the opposing batting average go down? Hard to say, because it doesn’t happen very often these days. Managers see that “100” and they either remove their starter or hit the snooze, ready with the hook at the first sign of trouble — which is almost always a hit or a walk.

Rookie umpire Johnny Tumpane seems intent on making himself known. Working Friday night’s game behind the plate, Tumpane called a significant number of borderline low pitches as strikes for Jenrry Mejia (though not for Leake). As the third-base umpire in this game, Tumpane made a dramatic punch-out of Duda when asked for help on a checked-swing. I’m not so sure Duda swung — it could’ve gone either way — but I was taken aback by Tumpane’s animated response. On the one hand, I like to see color in the game, and miss colorful umpires like Ron Luciano. On the other hand, Tumpane seems like he might be trying too hard — or maybe, he’s just overly excited in his first week as a big leaguer. Either way, he’s already making a few non-friends.

Speaking of balls and strikes, John Hirshbeck was giving plenty of low and inside strikes to both Dillon Gee and Johnny Cueto. I like seeing more strikes called, and don’t mind if the strike zone gets expanded by an inch or two — it will speed up the game.

Oh and while on the subject of umpiring, we must make note of the first overturn of a call via instant replay in a Mets game (at least, I think it was the first?). I’m very curious to know what the umpires in the review booth have access to in terms of camera angles (supposedly, “up to 12”), because if they can only see what we can see at home, then I’m very surprised they overturned second base umpire James Hoye’s call in the ninth inning. There’s absolutely no doubt that it looked like Juan Lagares beat the throw to the bag — I’m not arguing that. However, from the angles we saw on SNY, to me it was inconclusive as to whether Lagares’ left foot first landed on the second base bag or Zack Cozart‘s foot. I, personally, didn’t see “clear and convincing evidence” that Lagares was safe. I don’t know how Ron Darling could’ve been so adamant about Lagares’ foot being on the base from the same video we saw — the only person who was close enough to make the call was the guy who originally made the call — Moye, who was right on top of the play, in perfect position, at the perfect angle, less than ten feet from the bag. MAYBE there was a TV camera that had as good an angle as Moye, and for whatever reason, that camera wasn’t available to the viewing audience (though that would be strange, wouldn’t it, particularly if such an angle proved Lagares were safe?). I don’t think the overturn made that much of a difference in the outcome of the game — most likely, J.J. Hoover still would’ve thrown a hanging curveball to Ike Davis. What bothers me is the possibility that plays are overturned based on camera angles that are no better than that of the umpire’s. “Clear and convincing evidence” should be just that, and should not necessarily assume that the cameras can see better than the man on the field.

Chris Heisey is not a spectacular player, but he’s what coaches like to call a “head’s up” ballplayer. In his pinch-hit, hustling double in the 8th, he did everything right. First, he took strike one as the leadoff batter, down one, late in the game. Second, with two strikes, he took a defensive swing at a borderline strike, didn’t try to do too much with the pitch, and poked it into right field for hit. Third, he hustled out of the box, took a perfect cut around first base, made an excellent read on the ball and Granderson’s ability to get to it, and made an aggressive, but smart, decision to go for two. Finally, he made a perfect pop-up slide directly into second base. Plenty to be learned by a young ballplayer by watching that few seconds of baseball.

Moments later, Heisey was sacrificed to third on a bunt by Roger Bernadina. Another nice lesson there: Mets left fielder Eric Young, Jr. hustling in to cover third base, preventing Heisey from straying too far from the bag, and/or, providing the possibility of putting Heisey out if he did stray too far. This is something I constantly preach as a coach: everyone on the field should be moving, all the time, to be part of the play. Just because the ball isn’t being handled by you, doesn’t mean there isn’t something you can do. A player should never be standing still while a play is happening — there is always somewhere you can be going, something you can be doing, even if it’s as seemingly miniscule as backing up a base, backing up a play, covering a base, moving a bat out of the way, or providing verbal help to a teammate.

Next Mets Game

After getting swept in the first series of the season, the Mets look for their first series sweep on Sunday afternoon. Game time is 1:10 PM and pits Jonathon Niese vs. Alfredo Simon. Who will start at 1B for the Mets?

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. Vilos April 5, 2014 at 7:45 pm
    Negative or non negative, this is still the best mets/baseball blog.
    Thanks!
  2. ncb1gdog April 5, 2014 at 7:52 pm
    Spot on with this article, especially with the comments about EY Jr hustling on the back up play and Heisey’s hustle double.

    Too often these days, young players seem to be more concerned with the spectacular play vs. the little things that make a complete ballplayer.

    I too coached after my playing days were over, and always stressed the subtle nuances of this beautiful game to my young players to try to instill in them that it was NOT all about the individual highlight reels, but more about the ability to do everything possible to help your team win.

    The intriguing thing about baseball is that it’s both an individual and a team effort. The length of the season, and each game, dictates that this must be the case. While one player can “carry” a team for a short period; over the course of a season it is the amalgamation of effort and skill by all of the players involved that provides the final result.

  3. meticated April 6, 2014 at 1:28 am
    Okay. ..perhaps my crisis was a simple premature exclamation …its only the malware in my system imprinted by years of baseball as played by our lovable , in spite of each everything,local heroes. Im a true believer…its why i hurt when taking one for the team vicariously…the Israelites also suffered under oppression, but ultimately prevailed and were compensated infinitely….If it can happen before, then an open miracle can re occur …however, I’m still not comfortable that it’s the green wire, not the red one we are supposed to cut..I’m definitely not taking off my hazmat suit, nor bomb proof vest yet…or the Dalai lamas rally yarmulke with chewing gum stupa. ..
  4. meticated April 6, 2014 at 2:28 am
    Joe ..Please elaborate on the physics of being out front to meet the ball in full outward thrust…is the power exchange substantially different somehow , than in the wheelhouse traditional power shift, hip turn and pivot thru center of gravity
    • Joe Janish April 6, 2014 at 2:02 pm
      When a hitter has most of his weight forward, over his front foot — it may be described as “lunging” — he can hit the ball a long way if his timing is right. Generally speaking, with such an approach, contact has to occur far out in front of the plate. The idea is that the batter applies both his weight and the momentum of the swing to the ball about three feet in front of home plate.

      Make sense? If I can find my old Charley Lau book I may be able to find a better description.

  5. argonbunnies April 6, 2014 at 3:02 am
    Joe, your math is not wrong about high pitch count sample sizes, but if you watch every pitch Gee throws, you’ll see that the difference between non-fatigued Gee and fatigued Gee actually IS bigger than the difference between Gee and a mediocre reliever.

    The switch doesn’t always flip at the same number of pitches — at times last year it was 87, at times in 2012 it was 110 — but it always flips, and once it does, Gee can’t command the baseball. I’m guessing it’s tired legs, but whatever the cause, Gee is unable to finish his pitches and drive the ball down in the zone — everything sails up and is flat. He’s simply a pinata at that point.

    Maybe the Mets can build Gee’s stamina and push back his point of fatigue from 90 to 100 to 110 or whatever, but if they want to win his starts, they need to recognize when he’s fatigued and yank him instantly. Some guys are just like that. Rick Reed comes to mind — I will never forget the game where he retired the first 19 and then gave up single, single, single, homerun.

    • Joe Janish April 6, 2014 at 1:51 pm
      I agree with you re: fatigue, and stated as much in the post. That’s part of my point, for a manager to use his eyes rather than always a number — be it a pitch count or a stat. If Gee is showing signs of fatigue, then yes, pull him, regardless of pitch count. Similarly, if he’s looking strong at 105 pitches, and gives up a base hit, don’t pull him just because he gave up a base hit and the stats say that he allows a .330 opposing average after pitch 100.
  6. argonbunnies April 6, 2014 at 3:17 am
    If Ike can crush mistakes, and pitchers fear his power enough to pitch carefully and thus walk him a bit, then wouldn’t that basically make him Adam Dunn? I think that’s acceptable in today’s game, given the dearth of power bats out there. Of course, if your 1B is merely “acceptable”, you’d better be strong elsewhere in the lineup, which the Mets aren’t (outside of Wright)…

    I keep hoping Duda will rediscover his hitting style from 2011. He was able to handle inside and outside pitches that year, provide the height was right. For the last 2 years, it’s looked to me like he’s been leaning toward the plate and spinning. Or maybe he’s just starting too early. Whatever the cause, he can’t touch anything on the inside edge, and he’s over/under/late on everything away. Someone please fix him! He still has the best combo of eye/quick bat/power on the team after Wright, but we only get to see it when the pitcher puts it in the exact right spot for him.

    I’ve preferred Duda over Ike in the past, but right now, in the search for optimism, Ike’s difference from 2013 looks brighter to me than Duda’s same old same old.

    • Joe Janish April 6, 2014 at 1:44 pm
      That’s a big “if” isn’t it?

      Davis can certainly crush mistakes, but how often is the question.

  7. DaveSchneck April 6, 2014 at 8:51 am
    Joe,
    Excellent points in your article. Lagares also had a nice AB to lead the bottom of the 9th, working a leadoff walk, and then beating the play at 2B. Good stuff.

    I was actually at the game (free tix, won’t pay cheapskate Wilpons). Phillips absolutely crushed that HR – the wind was blowing in gale force. Given the pen I would have left Gee in too, he had a lot of easy innings, but I get what AB says above. Regarding Ike, exciting finish, and that pitch was a meatball, but at least he got it in the air. It seems to me that it is the rare hitter that can drive non-mistakes, most guys get hard-hit hits on mistakes and get beat by good pitches.

  8. Dan42 April 6, 2014 at 12:27 pm
    Regarding the overturned call, the Reds feed showed very clearly that he beat the throw, and was popping up from his slide before the ball reached the glove.
    • Joe Janish April 6, 2014 at 1:34 pm
      Was the Reds feed you saw the same as the Reds feed I saw on MLB.com? Because the feed on MLB.com showed fewer angles than SNY and were similarly inconclusive.

      Again, not arguing whether Lagares beat the ball to Cozart’s glove. I didn’t see where his foot landed, and it looked very possible that his foot hit Cozart’s spike or ankle rather than the bag. The camera angles I saw on the Reds feed on MLB.com were too far away to prove — to me — conclusive evidence one way or the other.

      • Dan42 April 6, 2014 at 1:44 pm
        I’ll look at it again (both feeds) and report back. I think the Red’s announcers were calling it safe even before the replay. Also there is a similar comment in the Line Ups article.
        • Dan42 April 6, 2014 at 2:06 pm
          Don’t know what the MLB broadcast showed, but the SNY camera from above the home plate area was even better than the Red’s to show that he had the bag before the ball got to the glove. The only question from that angle was did his foot go over the bag, but a different shot showed that he did hit its side as he started to pop up. Nowhere near Cozart’s foot.
        • Joe Janish April 6, 2014 at 2:34 pm
          Last time: no argument that Lagares beat the ball. Everyone agrees on that.

          Every shot I saw on TV and the internet showed nothing conclusive to me. When Lagares popped up, his foot — to me — looked like it could have popped up from Cozart’s foot or ankle. If you saw it differently, then we’ll agree to disagree.

          I take issue with the statement that Lagares’ foot was “nowhere near” Cozart’s as he popped up. It HAD TO BE within inches, because there was contact between the two players at some point.

          But we’re getting away from the point, which is that this replay/review system has its flaws. What I would hope — but don’t think it’s part of the process — is that the review is a conversation between the umpire who made the call and the guys in the booth. THAT would make the system nearly flawless, wouldn’t it?

          For example, this back-and-forth we’re having would have been very valuable if it was a conversation that occurred toward making the call. Imagine this: guys in the booth, watching the replay, call Hoye and say, “hey, from the replay, it looks like Lagares definitely beat the ball to Cozart’s glove — did you call him out for some other reason?” Then Hoye answers, “no, to me it looked like the ball beat him,” or “yes, Lagares’ foot first landed on Cozart’s foot, and by the time it hit the bag, Cozart had already caught the ball — that’s why I called him out.”

          But I don’t *think* that conversation happens (?) — I get the idea that the guys in the booth make the call as if there was no umpire on the ground to make it first. And if that’s the case, then what’s the point of having umpires at all?

  9. mckeeganson April 6, 2014 at 3:29 pm
    I think one thing we can all agree on, is that the Chris Young injury has been a major blessing in disguise. Imagine if he was healthy: Lagares probably would have only made one start by this point and likely wouldn’t have much timing at the plate. Eric Young’s struggles eventually would have allowed for a bigger role but there is no guarantee that he would be thriving as he has so far. If you look at his minor league stats, he has been an improving hitter since 2010 and generally takes a little time to adjust to a new league. If he could develop into even an average hitter, you are looking at a potential 5 win player. I don’t think he has the patience to hit leadoff, but you could be looking at a solid number 2 hitter long term.
    • Joe Janish April 6, 2014 at 7:00 pm
      You bring up an interesting point regarding Chris Young’s injury. What would the lineups over this past weekend look like if Chris Young was healthy? Would Eric Young, Jr., still be starting at leadoff every day? Would Lagares still be in CF? We’ll never know.
      • DaveSchneck April 7, 2014 at 10:54 am
        Joe,
        Lagares is hitting, and beyond just getting hits, he is showing improvement with his approach – recognizing pitches, laying off balls, and drawing some walks. The sample size is small, but this is no small achievement and will cement Juan as a plus CF that is young and cost controlled, a major asset to the team. I sure hope that when CY is healthy, he gets his time at the expense of EYjr, and Terry hits him leadoff until he proves he can’t. CY spent time adjusting his approach as well this offseason with none other than Rod Carew, he has the ability to draw walks, and hopefully with a small Citifield swing he can put up and OBP of .350 or above with a little pop and speed. I don’t have confidence that EY can do that, and Lagares needs more MLB experience and success before given that responsibility.