Mets Game 8: Loss to Braves

Braves 4 Mets 3

Mets lose, but do what they can to make it exciting at the end.

Mets Game Notes

It didn’t seem like the Mets had any chance at all to win the ballgame. Then Fredi Gonzalez started thinking, which is never a good thing for the Braves.

Tough night for Zack Wheeler, who was throwing 95-96 out of the gate, but reduced to around 93 by the third inning. He was getting plenty of swings and misses, but it’s hard to say whether that was due to his stuff or due to the nature of the Braves hitters, since we saw the Braves missing tons of pitches against Bartolo Colon as well. Regardless, missing bats wasn’t enough to keep Wheeler in the ballgame beyond frame five, because for every 5-6 misses, the Braves were torching a ball into the outfield.

I’m wondering if that’s a guided approach from the Braves batting coach — to take ferocious swings, all the time. In other words, the old Woodie Held philosophy of “swing hard in case you hit it.”

Someone should check Ervin Santana‘s bright, glossy red bat to see if it’s actually aluminum. Wood shouldn’t look like that, should it?

Jason Heyward saw twice as many pitches before his leadoff homer than all three Mets hitters saw in the top of the initial inning.

Heyward appears to be out of his slump. He’s an unbelievable athlete. His swing is not pretty by any means, and he does a number of things that should prevent him from hitting the ball well — closed stance, striding toward the plate, looping swing, excessive head movement — but somehow, he’s able to hit the ball hard. In many ways, he’s a throwback to the days before Charley Lau, high-speed film, and perfectly efficient swings — if he went into a time machine and was dropped into, say, 1978, he’d fit right in. In approach and body type, he looks similar to a young Dave Parker, though his performance thus far has been more like a young John Milner. It will be interesting to see how far his athleticism will carry him forward — will his fate be Milner, or Parker, when it’s all said and done?

Juan Lagares made only one spectacular, extra-base-robbing catch in this game. No need to be alarmed, though — he may be one of the Mets shaking off the flu. I’m sure the Human Highlight Film (all apologies to Dominique Wilkins) will be back on his game soon enough.

The first walk of the game — for either club — came when Jordan Walden walked Eric Young, Jr. to lead off the top of the ninth.

I keep waiting for Walden to fall flat on his face in the middle of his pitching motion. That hitch in his delivery is downright bizarre.

I’ve been saying Fredi Gonzalez is an awful manager since his days in Florida. I stand by my words. Why have Walden start the ninth if you intend on having Kimbrel warm up behind him? And why remove Santana after 88 pitches, when he was cruising and showing no signs whatsoever of tiring? Baffling. Either let Santana start the 9th, or have Kimbrel start the 9th with a clean slate. It’s nonsensical to put Walden out there and pull him at the first moment of panic.

It was good to see the Mets fight back in the ninth. Another positive: they struck out only nine times for the second straight game! Baby steps.

In Kevin Burkhardt’s spot on Daniel Murphy, he reported that Murphy was 15th-worst in MLB in frequency of bases on balls in 2013 — and proceeded to mention that some “good ballplayers” such as Torii Hunter and Manny Machado were even worse. Hmm. Well, OK, but, Hunter and Machado bring more to the ballpark than Murphy — Murphy’s SINGULAR tool is his bat. Hunter is a former Gold Glove centerfielder who is still pretty decent in the OF, and Machado’s glove is a strength. Further, both Machado and Hunter hit for more power, and had higher OPS totals in 2013. Just sayin’ …

Anyone else notice the high school kids texting like mad from the premium front-row seats right behind home plate? Why don’t real baseball fans ever sit in the best seats in the house? Something wrong with that.

Josh Satin pinch-hit for Zack Wheeler in the top of the sixth. He did not channel Hank Aaron after striking out looking.

Jordan Schafer looks like the frat boy at the bar who you want to punch in the face, doesn’t he?

John Lannan looks like the guy who will take the swing for you, doesn’t he?

Freddie Freeman is the player Nick Johnson was supposed to become.

Interesting bit of trivia: Freddie Freeman was a 2nd-round pick in 2009, 14th chosen in that round and 78th overall. The team choosing one slot before? The Mets, who chose pitcher Scott Moviel. The player chosen right before Moviel? Giancarlo Stanton. Wow. For what it’s worth, the player chosen right after Freeman was Zack Cozart. Pretty decent second round that year — it was about as productive as the first (which included, among others, David Price, Travis d’Arnaud, Matt Wieters, Madison Bumgarner, and, of course, legendary pitchers Eddie Kunz and Nathan Vineyard).

Next Mets Game

The final game of this three-game series begins at 7:10 PM. Jenrry Mejia goes to the mound against David Hale.

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 10, 2014 at 5:27 am
    psychologically it has to take a toll on David Wright to be the only consistent position player for the last few beltran we’ve got no one to protect him…poor guy…it’s a testament to his ability that he puts up good numbers. .This squad has no system that works…Some waste at bats frozen. ..Some flail like little leagers. .it looks like every team is surpassing us in talent except for pitching and that’s not a certainty till its evident. .Houston will be strong…cubs as well…We’ve got Nimmo and Smith. ..
  2. DanB April 10, 2014 at 7:06 am
    If the pitcher was hitting eigth, then a pinch hitter would of been up instead of Tejada. On the other hand, the pinch hitter would of been Omar Q so….
    • chris April 10, 2014 at 11:31 am
      For the number of times that scenario happens, why not just pinch hit for Tejada and the pitcher?

      In other comments, the empty seats at Citi / kids not paying attention is in fact depressing. My wife was commenting on it a couple days ago. It’s a shame because most of us who would appreciate it can’t afford to shell out the money for those tickets, especially for a team as unworthy as the one the Mutt’s are currently sporting. By the time the corner is turned, those seats will be full of hedge fund traders and bankers.

      Draft is a crapshoot. If you get a good run of results however, its the best way to build. If you don’t … you are the Mets.

      • argonbunnies April 10, 2014 at 3:01 pm
        No one buys those tickets, those are given away to friends or business associates of the team. The one time I ever sat in that section was because a friend of a friend knew Rick Peterson. The row in front of me was full of rich old guys constantly ordering food and hot girls working on their tans. I think there was one dude in the row behind me actually cheering for the Mets.
        • Joe Janish April 10, 2014 at 11:47 pm
          Exactly my point. It’s like if I ever received first-row seats to the opera — I couldn’t possibly appreciate them. Again, something wrong with that.
    • Joe Janish April 11, 2014 at 12:15 am
      If the pitcher were hitting eighth, the entire dynamic of the game would have been different. You can’t assume the situation to be exactly the same by shifting one batting position at one point in the ballgame.

      But, yeah — Omar Q. would’ve been the pinch-hitter, so …

  3. DanB April 10, 2014 at 8:17 am
    Gonzalez took Santana out because it was his first start and they didn’t want to push him . He didn’t bring in Kimbrel to start the ninth because it wasn’t a save situation. Debatable? Of course. Nonsensical? Well, I think that might be a stretch. The whole save situation is stupid and managers are managing to the stats and not to the game. I don’t remember such pampering to stats 25 years ago but I might be wrong.
    • argonbunnies April 10, 2014 at 3:17 pm
      Every modern manager has This Game’s Over envy from watching dominant 9th inning guys change the psychology of the game. Even though there aren’t more than 2 or 3 current relievers who inspire that reaction, you still have 30 teams trying desperately to pretend they have such a guy. I don’t think managers are addicted to the save stat except as a byproduct of being addicted to the closer mystique. (Not much mystique in closing out a 4-run lead.)

      I agree that working Santana’s pitch count up slowly and trusting a valued non-Kimbrel reliever with the 9th are totally defensible. And then, if it looks like Walden doesn’t have it, of course you replace him. The only part I’d second-guess is whether Walden had shown he didn’t have it.

      Although, to be honest, if the Mets have a 4-run lead in the 9th and 2 guys on, I probably would want to bring in our best guy, just to stop the other team’s momentum and because 9th inning meltdowns are so demoralizing when they do happen.

      • Joe Janish April 10, 2014 at 11:59 pm
        I believe in building up pitch count. However, I also believe in trusting the eyes and the performance of the pitcher. If the pitcher is effective, and his mechanics have not changed (in other words, he hasn’t shown signs of fatigue), there’s no reason whatsoever to remove him. Where MLB fails miserably is in being overly conscious of pitch counts, rather than in days of rest (and understanding what “rest” means).

        Santana could have and should have started the 9th. The backup plan should’ve been Kimbrel. It doesn’t make sense to send in Walden just for the heck of it, and have Kimbrel warming up right behind him. If you want Kimbrel in there to nail down the game — regardless of whether it’s a “save situation” or not — then you put Kimbrel in there. Otherwise, you put Walden out there and let him finish or lose. If you don’t have the faith in Walden to hold a four-run lead, why do you have him on the roster? This is my issue with modern “managing” — pitchers rarely have the opportunity to work out of the difficult situations they create. Managers keep changing pitchers until they get a positive result — it’s the same as throwing paint on the wall until something sticks. There’s nothing intelligent about knee-jerk managing — it’s all “covering my ass,” which to me, is lazy and cowardly. (Ah, the curmudgeon in me shines!) Further, today’s closers are almost always sent out to start a clean ninth inning, so they are not accustomed to entering into a “fireman” situation.

        • argonbunnies April 11, 2014 at 4:02 am
          Fair enough. I guess I’m just evaluating the move within the modern context, in which:
          – every team has one or more relief “pitchers” who actually CAN’T be trusted with a 4-run lead on days when they look shaky (partly because they’ve never learned to work out of trouble)
          – managers and pitching coaches aren’t good at spotting signs of pitcher fatigue other than results (they’ll notice walks, but not a lowering arm slot)
    • Joe Janish April 11, 2014 at 12:17 am
      “Nonsensical” may have been a stretch. In my defense, I was doing yoga prior to writing the post.
  4. DaveSchneck April 10, 2014 at 8:23 am
    Virtually all real baseball fans can afford the prices of those tickets. At least the Braves have humans in those seats, those seats at Citifield are occupied by ghosts.

    Lagares simply has to play every day unless he is completely inept at the plate, which he isn’t now and likely won’t be. This is the kind of guy that makes watching baseball a pleasure, and he is young and cost controllable to boot.

    Not sure if anyone else was bugged by Duda’s AB in the 9th. After Kimbrel came in, threw a first pitch curve to Grandy and then 4 straight FBs to load the bases, I though it was the perfect opportunity for Duda to sit on a curve ball on the first pitch. I thought Gattis was very likely to call that pitch since Kibrel ws flying open with his FBs. Duda, of course, watched the pitch go by belt high, cutting the plate in half, and proceeded to K in 3 pitches. Am I a delusional armchair fan, or was that just bad hitting?

    • argonbunnies April 10, 2014 at 3:07 pm
      Re: seats, Dave, see my reply to Chris above.

      Agreed on Lagares.

      Duda is a limited hitter — just because he’s sitting on a slider down the middle doesn’t mean he can actually hit it when it’s the first pitch he sees off a guy who’s tough to time. I think the strategy you suggest is the correct one for a more talented hitter.

      Too bad Kimbrel found his fastball command against Tejada. The Mets did a good job of not beating themselves there; nice to see.

  5. argman April 10, 2014 at 9:38 am
    Gary and Ron mentioned Heyward’s closed stance during the broadcast and that it was much more common a generation or two ago. Joe, is a closed stance really that detrimental to hitting? I always thought that players who used it sacrificed power (especially to the pull side) but gained plate control. A big guy like Parker (and Heyward) can still generate some power with it. But I thought that smaller guys (someone like Ruben Tejada) could benefit from that approach. Is it really inefficient for all types of hitters?
    • Joe Janish April 11, 2014 at 12:09 am
      Is it “that” detrimental? That’s subjective, I think.

      Here’s the thing, we have learned that a closed stance: a) limits the view of the pitch; b) can cause the head and upper body to move in order to get a clearer view of the pitch; c) encourages stepping toward the plate, instead of stepping toward the pitcher, which limits hip rotation and makes the batter vulnerable to inside pitches; d) even if the batter strides straight toward the pitcher, he’s still limiting hip rotation, therefore sacrificing power — UNLESS he opens up too early, which means there’s less time to decide whether to swing.

      A better can get similar plate coverage with a more “square” stance (feet more parallel) and by standing closer to the plate.

      Because of all we know about closed stances, it makes sense to put a batter into better position by getting his feet more parallel.

      Back in the day, I believe more hitters used closed stances in part due to fear / protecting themselves from pitches thrown at their heads. If you’re already set up with your front foot ahead of your back, it’s easier to turn the head back toward the catcher and away from a pitch at the head. Additionally, a closed stance presumably was protection against breaking pitches away.

      Guys like Parker, Jim Rice, and many others used slightly closed stances and did very well. But I’d argue that they might have been even better had they squared themselves up just a bit more.

  6. hiro April 10, 2014 at 9:49 am
    Sometimes trivia hurts far worse than 9k and a loss.
  7. meticated April 10, 2014 at 3:19 pm
    Saw that Cleto was throwing 99mph. ..picked up by white sox…3 secondary pitches. ..look at who we gave up…ugh Heilman. ..but what did we get. ..A putz. ..Two indistinguishable players…swept under the trade history rug…

    On December 11, 2008 Cleto was traded to the Mariners with Aaron Heilman, Endy Chávez, Jason Vargas, Mike Carp and Ezequiel Carrera in exchange for J. J. Putz, Jeremy Reed and Sean Green.[1]

  8. DanB April 10, 2014 at 4:13 pm
    Argon, I don’t think managers are addicted to the save stat as much as closers and their agents are and they put pressure on managers, directly or indirectly, to not use closers unless it is a save opportunity. As we discussed earlier, many of us would like to see more “firemen” who are capable of ending rallies then closers who can pitch the ninth in a 6-3 ballgame.
    • argonbunnies April 11, 2014 at 4:05 am
      If you sign a guy and promise he’ll be the closer, and then don’t use him in a save situation, I bet you’ll get grief from the player/agent then. I have never heard a player or agent complain about the player being used more than just in save situations.
      • DanB April 11, 2014 at 8:21 am
        I definitely heard of closers who complain about pitching in the ninth in non-save situations. Also, if a manager uses his “closer” to pitch in the seventh in a turning point situation and then use the third best closer for an easy save in the ninth, you don’t think the closer would get mad, despite the logic in the strategy?