Mets Game 7: Win Over Braves

Mets 4 Braves 0

The Mets beat the mighty Braves on Hank Aaron Night.

Mets Game Notes

On Sunday, we witnessed a lazy Sunday afternoon game. Was it me, or was this a lazy Tuesday night game? I just didn’t see much energy from either side — the most exciting part of the game was watching Terry Collins sprint out to challenge an out call in the 8th inning (an out call that was overturned, by the way, thanks to the magic of modern technology).

OK, that’s not entirely right; the game did become exciting when Jose Valverde became unraveled in the bottom of the 9th. But even I didn’t expect him to blow a four-run lead this early in the year, and not against a streaky Braves club that right now is doing a ton of swinging and missing. At the same time, I’m not sure Valverde felt as confident as I — I’m fairly sure he soiled his pants when Jason Heyward hit the final long fly to center field, if not earlier in the inning.

Strangely enough, despite what seemed like a lot of swinging and missing by the Braves, they struck out only six times. Meanwhile, the Mets struck out another nine times to keep their average at ten per game.

Bartolo Colon limited the Braves to six hits, no walks, and, obviously, no runs through seven frames. It seemed like all of the Braves hits came with two outs and no one on base — that’s the way to give ’em up.

Where did Aaron Harang‘s velocity come from? Wasn’t he struggling to reach 87-88 MPH last year with the Mets? He was humming as high as 92-93 in this ballgame. It amazes me that he can get that kind of velocity and not seriously damage his arm, considering he doesn’t use his lower body at all for acceleration nor deceleration, and seems to limit his shoulder rotation. But then, I’m also surprised that Bartolo Colon can throw above 90 MPH despite seriously limiting his shoulder rotation by “short-arming.” Both pitchers put significant strain on their elbow by taking their shoulder out of the equation.

I got a kick out of seeing the old-school Atlanta Braves uniforms, but I don’t remember them being so baggy back in the 1970s — back then, most players wore their uniforms skin-tight. The big, baggy white uni on Harang just looked sloppy; he looked like he should’ve been pitching underhand in a Sunday softball beer league (but then, Colon did too).

Daniel Murphy is swinging at everything one-handed. Even the ball that he hit relatively hard in the third inning — a deep fly to right field — could’ve been a better drive, possibly over the fence, had he held on to the bat with two hands through contact. It’s fine to let go of the bat AFTER contact, especially if it helps a batter get full extension through the ball. But Murphy has a habit of releasing the bat with his top hand AT or slightly before contact, which provides no advantage whatsoever. I imagine one of the two Mets hitting coaches will eventually work with him on breaking that habit.

Speaking of extension, Freddie Freeman doesn’t get as much as he should — most of his swings are relatively controlled, and he cuts them off right after contact (Joey Votto swings similarly, especially with two strikes). That’s kind of scary, because even without getting full acceleration through the baseball, he’s still able to drive the ball a long distance.

Much was made of Brian McCann‘s exit and the subsequent transition of Evan Gattis as the starting backstop, with most pundits suggesting there would be a major dropoff in defensive performance. I have to say, Gattis isn’t necessarily pretty behind the plate, but he’s not nearly as awful as people have expected, has decent footwork, a strong and accurate arm with quick release, does a good job on balls in the dirt (Harang was killing him with worm-beaters), and overall, is fairly athletic — in a clunky, almost Hunter Pence sort of way.

In regard to Gattis’ throwing on steal by Curtis Granderson, Ron Darling suggested that “the really good catchers” start moving their feet into throwing position before receiving the ball. No they don’t, nor should they. Good, efficient footwork begins immediately at the moment the ball hits the glove. If it happens at any moment before, everything is going to be out of whack; the timing and coordination will be completely off. Kids, don’t listen to a pitcher when it comes to catching. Many catchers know pitching, but no pitchers know catching.

Gattis is a caveman, isn’t he? I mean that in the kindest way. He’s fun to watch. Gotta love the way he chokes up on the bat with two strikes, sans batting gloves — old school.

Does Travis d’Arnaud have the flu? During his at-bats he looked really tired. He did finally get his first base hit of the season, as well as his second (which was his first extra-base hit, a double) but his swings looked kind of lazy. In his first at-bat in particular, he looked as though he was trying to get the plate appearance over with as soon as possible. For what it’s worth, d’Arnaud’s “double,” to me, should’ve been scored an error on one of the Uptons, who did a terrible job of allowing a routine fly fall between them. Not to take anything away from d’Arnaud — he hit some bullets and long flies in the first six games that were outs, and he was due to get a cheapie. It all evens out in the end (a hitter hopes).

Interesting comment from Al Downing during his chat with Kevin Burkhardt: he mentioned that (among other things) Hank Aaron never “showed you up,” and never argued with umpires. Fascinating to me that one of the greatest hitters of all time didn’t see it fit to correct an umpire’s call, yet some comparatively lousy hitters find it necessary to inform the home plate umpire when there’s a disagreement on called strikes. I guess today’s umpires must be really bad — it couldn’t be the lousy hitters, could it?

Which reminds me of an old-school phrase / philosophy I’ve heard from many MLB hitters: “there are three strikes every at-bat; the pitcher gets one, the umpire gets one, and you get one. Make sure you hit yours.”

I didn’t recognize any Braves relievers until former Met Pedro Beato entered the game.

If anyone can give me a valid or logical reason why Juan Lagares would be trying to bunt for a base hit in the sixth inning, with two out, a man on first, and the #7 and #8 hitters up next, please let me know in the comments.

Ruben Tejada had two RBI singles on well-struck bloops. “Well-struck” meaning he “hit ’em where they ain’t.” Perhaps Tejada is learning that he is not a homerun hitter, and his best offensive value is to simply make decent contact with runners on base. Imagine if Rey Ordonez would have ever figured that out?

Next Mets Game

The Mets and Braves do it again at 7:10 PM on Wednesday night. Zack Wheeler takes the hill against Ervin Santana.

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. meticated April 9, 2014 at 4:57 am
    How can we be successful batting .178???…and averaging 10 whiffs a game. ..that’s shortening the game to five 2/3 innings to possibly score…I recognize that that is an abstract idea that strikeouts are inherent in the strategy. .but home runs in citifeld are rare as hens teeth…lowering the cost of family games attendance, is more likely than winning by long ball…and we know that the philosophy of the team is defense speed and pitching. ..ball in play and smart heads up actions are our method. ..This squad doesn’t make sense or the management is in perpetual confusion. .I’m still thrilled that it’s baseball season mind ya…probably I will stop commenting soon because it feels hollow….
    • crozier April 9, 2014 at 11:07 am
      The Mets can’t be successful batting .178, so good thing it’s April 9. They can be successful if their starting pitching continues to keep them in games, and the bats warm up, which I assume they will.

      The Mets don’t need to hit a ton of home runs to win, though HRs are always welcome. They need to drive the ball into the gaps, which is what the “wait for a pitch to drive” strategy is for. An increase in K’s is a by-product of the strategy, but so are an increase in walks and opposition pitch counts.

      WIll the strategy work for the Mets? Maybe. I certainly prefer it to popping up the first pitch. As to investing in the bullpen, I’d rather see investment in offense. Let one of their good AAA arms do some time in the bullpen – it’s a strategy that’s worked well for St. Louis.

  2. argonbunnies April 9, 2014 at 5:41 am
    Was Harang’s stride always so short and his delivery always so quick? He was almost Heath Bell out there. For guys with complicated timing mechanisms, like Duda’s double foot tap, I’d think that a pitcher who can go quickly from the set to delivering the pitch would be deadly… and indeed, Lucas was late on every fastball Harang threw.

    Seeing how Andrelton Simmons can throw 97 without a stride, I wonder — could a pitcher consider doing that? No leg kick, just use a high set position, and go straight from there to the plate? Wouldn’t that be a brilliant way to mess with these toe-tapping, bat-wiggling, hands-dropping hitters?

    • Joe Janish April 9, 2014 at 9:51 pm
      I don’t remember whether or not Harang always had that short stride.

      There have been wily pitchers through the years who occasionally mixed in a “quick pitch,” and, there are pitchers who use the “slide step” with runners on, and those deliveries are similar to what you describe.

      Despite the beliefs and teachings of nearly every pitching coach who ever lived, there is no scientific evidence correlating velocity to stride. There have been many pitchers who threw 100 MPH and had long strides (Billy Wagner immediately comes to mind), but they didn’t necessarily throw so hard because of their long strides. Velocity is all about timing, coordination, and shoulder rotation.

      So to answer your question, yes, a pitcher could succeed with such a motion. But there are too many pitching coaches busy mucking things up by telling pitchers to take high leg kicks, rotate their hips, drop and drive, extend their strides, etc.

  3. argonbunnies April 9, 2014 at 5:45 am
    Not a good game at the plate by Lagares. He started off great, getting to 2-0 and 3-1 by passing on some bait pitches, but then he swung through 3 fastballs down the middle, and that seemed to mess with his head for the rest of the game. Next thing you know, he was bunting and swinging at sliders in the dirt a foot off the plate. I hope he can shake it off tomorrow and get back to doing what he’s been doing.
  4. DaveSchneck April 9, 2014 at 7:42 am
    Joe,
    Great recap. To further some of your points – Hank Aaron is a classy guy in any time, but baseball was a little different when he played. I remember watching #715 like it was yesterday. Several of the Mets had the flu, but I’m sure TDA would take a 2-4 with the flu any game. Somehow, Colon was throwing gas in the 7th inning, straight as an arrow, and the Braves couldn’t touch it. The Braves lineup and pen (except for Kimbrel) does not impress me…as many whiffers as the Mets. Washington may run away with this division if they stay healthy. They need to add a new category to the WAR calculation – overturned calls. Juan Lagares is 2 for 2 already due to his hustle, and despite looking bad in some ABs hustle and defense still helps the team win. Nice to see scrap heapers Farnsworth and Valverde shut down the last two innings, but if Alderson uses this as an excuse not to upgrade the pen then he will show his true colors regarding how serious he is about competing (once again).
    • Joe Janish April 9, 2014 at 10:23 pm
      Thanks Dave. Good notes from you, thank you for sharing.