Mets Game 12: Loss to Angels

Angels 14 Mets 2

Perhaps the exhaustion of this Left Coast trip finally caught up to the Mets, as they were clobbered by the Compton Angels. Unfortunately, there are still three more games to go on this western swing.

Mets Game Notes

Not a good day for Bartolo Colon. Hey, it happens. Everything Colon threw, the Angels hit. If Def Leppard had a hit that was the opposite of “Foolin‘”, it would have been Colon’s theme song for this ballgame.

On the one hand, you could argue that the Mets could have easily won this series, if only something had broken right on Friday night. On the other hand, you could argue that the Mets could’ve been swept, had only something broken right for the Angels on Saturday night. Hmm …

There’s been buzz asking, “should you be worried about David Wright? Should you be worried about Curtis Granderson? Should you be worried about Dillon Gee?” Etc. You know who Mets fans should be worried about? Scott Rice. One of the feel-good stories of 2013, suddenly Scott Rice is not the lights-out LOOGY he was in his long-awaited rookie season. When the Angels loaded the bases against him in the sixth inning, and Raul Ibanez came to the plate, I thought, “hey, here’s a great situation to bring in Scott Rice — and he’s already in the ballgame.” Rice quickly got ahead of Ibanez 0-2, Ibanez fouled off a few pitches, then before you knew it, it was full count. Sure, there was one pitch that MIGHT have been called strike three during the at-bat, but it was definitely borderline, and, Rice threw three other balls in addition to that one en route to walking Ibanez and forcing in a run. Rice, like most LOOGYs, has a decent-enough slider to get swings and misses from lefthanded hitters, but he doesn’t have anything else — not velocity, not great command, not a secondary pitch to compliment the slider. I think he’s going to have a tough go, especially as he faces NL teams who saw him last year.

David Wright and Daniel Murphy were thrown out of the game by home-plate umpire Toby Basner after Travis d’Arnaud struck out looking in the 7th. Wright and Murphy provided some constructive criticism from the dugout regarding Basner’s strike-zone judgment, with which Basner respectfully disagreed. There’s no doubt that Basner’s strike zone was large, and at least a few strike-threes against the Mets were not just questionable, but likely wrong. However, there were similarly borderline calls against the Angels hitters, and, from my view, Basner’s zone was fairly consistent — he was calling strikes at the bottom of the knees all day. As a player, I have experienced some very wide and questionable strike zones by both decent and awful umpires through the years — and it’s something that I have learned to adjust to, when necessary. Why? Because the reality is this: the strike zone is not necessarily what it is as defined by the rule book; the strike zone is whatever and however the umpire that day defines it. It’s stone-headed and unhelpful to continue to expect the strike zone to be something other than what the day’s home-plate umpire is calling. If a guy is calling the low strike, you know what? You make an adjustment, and protect against that pitch when you have two strikes. Bottom line is this: Basner may have made several bad calls, but he wasn’t the reason the Mets didn’t score enough runs to beat the Angels in this particular game.

Speaking of the strike zone, Mets hitters struck out another 11 times in this ballgame. They struck out 14 times on Saturday night, and 9 times Friday night, so that’s 34 times in 3 games — an average of over 11 per game. Granted, both Friday and Saturday night’s games were extra innings. But still, striking out 14 times in 13 innings (on Saturday) is not good.

Travis d’Arnaud has been allowing a number of balls get past him recently. I don’t necessarily blame him; I think part of it is the lack of command of Mets pitchers — particularly Jeurys Familia.

Speaking of Familia, he should not have been pitching in this game — not after throwing 51 pitches on Friday night. Once a pitcher reaches 40 pitches, he requires a minimum of two days of rest — that means, no throwing from the mound for two entire days. And while we’re on the subject of rest, John Lannan had no business being on the mound the day after tossing 33 pitches (actually, it was more like 15 hours after) — a pitcher needs one full day of rest after throwing 30 pitches. So it shouldn’t have been a surprise that Lannan shat the bed in this ballgame (whether anyone noticed or not is irrelevant). These numbers come from that mysterious voodoo land called “science.” Yes, all individuals are different, and therefore some may not necessarily apply to these numbers. But here’s the thing: the science is not based on performance, it’s based on how long it takes for the body’s muscle fibers to heal, and, generally speaking, we’re all pretty much the same when it comes to that detail. Add in the fact that both Lannan and Familia have incredibly inefficient and dangerous mechanics that put undue stress on their arms, and you have the makings of a disastrous situation. Yes, I know the Mets played two straight extra-inning games, and someone had to throw those innings. Here’s a wild idea: bring up an arm from AAA Las Vegas for Sunday’s game — they were playing in Fresno, which is less than a 4-hour drive / 1-hour flight from Orange County. Egregious irresponsibility by the Mets in not having a fresh arm available after Colon exited the ballgame. By the way, as of this writing, there still had been no announcement of the promotion of a AAA pitcher. And guess what? If the Mets recognized the importance of rest (rather than obsessing over pitch counts), they’d know that Lannan, Familia, and Scott Rice (who threw 34 pitches in this game) are all unavailable for Monday’s game. So, that means Terry Collins has to figure out a way to get 9 innings out of his starter, and has only Jose Valverde, Kyle Farnsworth, Carlos Torres, and Gonzalez Germen to work with out of the bullpen. I know, four relievers should be plenty, but, a) this is “Matchup Man” Terry Collins we’re talking about; and b) what happens if Zack Wheeler has a day tomorrow like Colon did in this ballgame? Uh-oh.

Next Mets Game

The Mets move on to Arizona to play the Diamondbacks in a three-game series. Game one begins at 9:40 PM Right Coast Time (RCT), and pits Zack Wheeler vs. Josh Collmenter.

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. DaveSchneck April 14, 2014 at 8:36 am
    Joe,
    Did not see the game (another good one to miss). Looks like Bartolo just didn’t have it. Oh well, hopefully this is the exception.

    Regarding Mr. Rice, and the bullpen in general…Collins gets roasted on his use of the pen, and much of the criticism is earned. However, Alderson has been un unmitigated disaster regarding the pen. First off, Collins has to put someone on the mound. He rarely ever gets depth from a starter, which means he needs 3+ innings out of the pen EVERY NIGHT. That is not his fault. Throw in a couple of extra inning games and no off days and unfortunately, unless he throws a position player out there, someone will pitch without proper rest. Now, regarding Alderson, look first at the LOOGYs. He essentially did nothing this offseason, instead relying on Rice and Edgin, since the system had no other LOOGY close. Rice was a career minor leaguer that was a pleasant surprise last year, but he was incredibly overused and ended his season with an arm injury. The likelihood of him even being decent this year was low. Edgin was a very low draft pick who throws hard but doesn’t pitch well. If it wasn’t for converting Lannan, they would have nothing, and Lannan is far from a sure thing as a border-line major leaguer in a new role. Add to that he provided no legit insurance behind Parnell, himself returning from serious surgery – even if Valverde and Farnsworth can manager to perform decently for 162 games, that is/was still a long shot. Familia obviously needs more work on his command, and should be closing in AAA…he has never closed anywhere. I would be hard to mismanage this pen worse than Alderson has, not just this season but each of his seasons.

    • Dan42 April 14, 2014 at 9:12 am
      Fortunately the next 3 games are against a team with similar problems, but with a larger budget, and lousy managers. But if Granderson can’t put some multi hit games together at Chase Field there isn’t any hope for this team, pitching problems aside.
    • Joe Janish April 14, 2014 at 5:19 pm
      I agree that Alderson has done a less-than-stellar job assembling a bullpen this year — as well as the past two years.

      I disagree that TC isn’t at fault for bullpen mismanagement. While he may not have the best talent to work with, he as the manager has no choice but to play the cards he’s dealt. That said, he could have used Gonzalez Germen instead of Familia, and used a combination of Farnsworth and Valverde instead of Lannan, if need be. Or, as I suggested, he could have made a phone call to Alderson and said, “hey, do a brother a solid and send me a fresh arm from Fresno.”

      TC could also consider not using five relievers a game.

      As for this comment: “He rarely ever gets depth from a starter, which means he needs 3+ innings out of the pen EVERY NIGHT. That is not his fault.”

      The NL average starting pitcher thus far this year goes 6 innings. The Mets starting pitchers are averaging slightly over 6 IP per start. So, while you may feel that TC is not getting “depth” from his starters, the fact is, neither is the average NL manager. I agree, it’s not Collins’ fault that his starters average only 6 innings a game, but, that is the reality of modern baseball, and he — like every other MLB manager — needs to find a solution.

      • DaveSchneck April 14, 2014 at 5:40 pm
        Joe,
        Agreed that starter legnth is a problem for all managers.

        Also agreed that Collins is at fault as well.

        I’d be interested in a study of how many managers violate your standard 2 days rest for any pitcher that exceeds 40 pitchs. I would hazard to guess that every manager in the MLB has broken that “rule”.

        • Joe Janish April 15, 2014 at 12:41 am
          I would also be interested to see those stats.

          BTW, it’s not “my” rule — the rest/pitch counts were developed by scientists. I’ll post the exact numbers and corresponding research soon.

          Also, yes, I’m sure other managers have broken the rules, but that doesn’t make it right (nor does it make it smart).

          For what it’s worth, I’ve been under the impression that the Mets’ front office is supposed to be smart, and proper management of a pitching staff would, I’d hope, to be something that smart people would know about and implement.

          I’m not being a smart ass to you, BTW. Rather, I keep hearing some crap about the Mets using cutting-edge, in-game, biomechanical analysis for their pitchers. Well, what the heck good is analysis if one doesn’t know how to interpret the data, and doesn’t know (or ignores) the most basic info we have, such as rest / pitch counts? It’s frustrating. It’s almost as though these people have decided to pick and choose the science they’ll adhere to, and ignore the rest. It doesn’t work that way — either you accept it, or don’t. Science is not a Chinese menu.

  2. Walnutz15 April 14, 2014 at 10:55 am
    C’mon Joe – the Met bullpen has PLENTY of disposable arms for Collins to burn through……*crickets*

    Can’t wait to see how much new ink this ‘pen’s going to need by early Summer – with the way The Genius “manages” it.

  3. argonbunnies April 14, 2014 at 6:57 pm
    I understand why you can’t hang some kid out there to dry, but a 41-year-old veteran who’s already gotten paid, and has proven everything he can prove in MLB — why not just let Colon gently throw BP for the final 4 innings and save the ‘pen? A loss is a loss, whether it’s 9-2 or 18-2.
  4. argonbunnies April 14, 2014 at 7:04 pm
    Joe, have you noticed how d’Arnaud’s been jerking borderline pitches several inches back toward the strike zone, and also quickly transferring the ball to his hand on anything he thinks is a strike? That’s not what we was doing last year when he received those high scores on pitch-framing.
    • Joe Janish April 15, 2014 at 12:45 am
      Thank you for pointing that out. Yes, I have seen d’Arnaud receiving differently this year, and I’m not sure whether it’s his changing technique, or a function of Mets pitchers’ lack of command; maybe it’s both. Or maybe it was Mike Piazza having a negative impact on him this spring — I never liked Piazza’s receiving technique. Last year, it seemed that d’Arnaud did a nice job of catching a “side” of the ball and holding strikes (or “sticking”), while, as you mention, this year he seems to be trying a little to hard to “get” strikes with glove movement after catching the ball.

      BTW I NEVER refer to the term “framing” — not in discussing catching, nor teaching. Framing, to me, is an awful term that suggests catchers should do something other than catch the ball when it’s a strike.

  5. argonbunnies April 14, 2014 at 7:14 pm
    As for the Mets’ need to adjust to Basner’s strike zone, I disagree. Fishing for balls way low and way outside will simply get you into bad habits. The ump made some terrible, terrible calls, which were NOT consistent, and I think they were all against the Mets.

    Agreed on Rice, though I think the single issue is control. If he could put the ball anywhere near where he wanted to, his sinker is good enough to get lefties out.

    • Joe Janish April 15, 2014 at 12:54 am
      You and I definitely saw different things regarding the umpire’s calls, so we’ll agree to disagree. From my perspective, there was no doubt that the calls were going both ways — the only difference was that the Mets were taking far more pitches, especially with two strikes. It’s no wonder they have been at the top of the league in Ks when they refuse to “protect the plate” with two strikes.

      Also, it’s not like the bad calls (and I did see some bad ones, again, for both sides) were a foot out of the zone — none were more than 4-5 inches off. I’m talking about where the balls passed through the zone, not where the catcher caught them.

      I completely disagree with the idea that bad habits will result in protecting the plate. It’s part of hitting — one must adjust to the umpire’s strike zone that day, not what you believe is the strike zone. Just because you swing at a pitch that’s an inch below the knee or two inches outside one day, doesn’t mean you’re going to do that all the time. The strike zone varies wildly especially at the amateur levels, and it’s something a batter learns to adjust to at an early age. MLB hitters can handle, and drive, balls that are a few inches outside the zone. It’s not about figuring out which pitches are strikes as much as figuring out what pitches you can handle best — regardless of whether those pitches are strikes or not. This is where I have a major problem with the Mets’ approach — they seem to be looking to take pitches and draw walks, rather than understand the pitches they can handle and whack them. It’s passive.

      But, that’s me and that’s been my approach — and I didn’t make it to the big leagues so perhaps it’s not the best advice. My thought has always been that I’m called the “hitter,” and I’m at the plate to hit, so that’s what I’m going to try to do. No one ever refers to the offensive player holding the bat as the “walker.”

      • argonbunnies April 15, 2014 at 1:34 am
        Here’s the reason I thought some of Basner’s calls were awful, unhittable, and should not have been swung at: they were significantly low AND outside. It’s frequent for MLB umps to do one or the other, but very rare for them to do both. Graphs of called strikes show that umps generally have a slightly spherical zone, where they’re more likely to call a high or low pitch a strike if it’s right over the middle, and more likely to call a wide or tight pitch a strike if it’s at mid-thigh. So, sure, some umps have a wide zone, and some umps have a low zone, but I think d’Arnaud, Satin and Wright each were called out on pitches that they could not have reached without leaning way over the plate.

        Colon was mostly up in the zone, so he couldn’t take advantage of this, but the few pitches he did throw below the knees or off the outer edge were not called. I didn’t stick around to watch the bullpen so I can’t speak to later in the game.

      • argonbunnies April 15, 2014 at 1:52 am
        As for hitting philosophy, I agree that the objective should be to swing at pitches that you can hit hard. However, I don’t think the Mets have a single player who can hit the ball hard when it’s perfectly placed on the corner low and away, much less off the plate low and away.

        Sure, some Mets can make contact with that pitch, but if they put it in play it’s a weak dribbler, and their odds are even worse than if they take it and hope the ump calls it a ball. The days where hitters had the skill to deliberately foul that pitch off are mostly past — there are a few guys around the game who can do that, but the Mets don’t have any of them.

        Here’s the best thing about a walk — you only have 27 outs to work with, and a walk doesn’t use up one of them. With RISP, if you have a pitcher, or an ice cold hitter, or Ruben Tejada behind you, then sure, swing at pitches you probably can’t hit well, and hope that the ball drops in somewhere. But if you have any faith in the teammate behind you, take your base.

        Joey Votto is a .300 hitter, but he’s not a .300 hitter on balls out of the strike zone. There, he’s more of a .200 hitter. So, let’s say he comes up 50 times in a situation where his manager would like him to expand the zone. Yeah, Votto could drive in 10 more runs, but he’ll also make 40 more outs. So would you rather have a 73-RBI guy with a .435 OBP or an 83-RBI guy with a .380 OBP?

        Just ask Jay Bruce. Give him 40 extra ABs with Votto on first (not to mention 4 extra ABs period due to the game lasting an extra out), and I bet Bruce makes up a chunk of those 10 runs all by himself. Add in Frazier et al. and it’s just no contest.

        If Bruce is ice cold and Votto’s hot and batting with two outs in the 9th and a key run on 3rd, then sure, expand the zone. I think Votto knows that. That fact is, it simply doesn’t come up that often.

        • Joe Janish April 15, 2014 at 12:52 pm
          I wouldn’t expect any MLB player (other than Vlad Guerrero) to hit a low-and-outside strike hard. That’s not the point. The point is, if you have two strikes, and the pitch is close, the option is to swing (and hit .200) or let it go and have the risk of it being called strike three (which is hitting .000). Maybe the ump calls it a ball, but if he’s calling a certain spot over and over, is it really his fault, or yours for not adjusting to his strike zone? In the end, the umpire’s strike zone is what counts, not what you perceive to be the strike zone.

          I don’t buy into taking everything close and hoping for a walk, then getting pissed off at the umpire when he doesn’t call it your way — which seems to be the approach of Josh Satin, Lucas Duda, Ike Davis, Ruben Tejada, et al. And I don’t buy into a passive approach with runners on base, regardless of who is at the plate. Maybe some of those called strike threes were out of the zone (though I don’t believe they were nearly as unhittable as you judged them — again, we’ll agree to disagree), but there were still two other strikes that each of those batters could’ve taken at hack at, and there may have been one or two balls out of the strike zone that they could’ve handled well.

          I’m not convinced that the Mets hitters “get it.” They really look to me like people trying to walk, rather than learning their strengths and taking advantage when their pitch comes in.

        • argonbunnies April 15, 2014 at 7:36 pm
          We agree that taking a pitch that’s been consistently called a strike and then whining about it is awful. I don’t think that’s a hitting philosophy, though — I think that’s just a reaction some Mets hitters have to failure. Satin is desperate to stick in MLB, Ike can’t handle hitting .150, Buck had a big mouth, etc.

          Duda takes a lot of strikes, but after seeing him swing and miss at so many pitches in the strike zone, I’ve formed the opinion that he’s only talented enough to handle pitches that are (a) down the middle or (b) the ones he’s looking for. If that’s true, then taking a lot is the proper approach. We don’t need a more aggressive Duda, we just need a better hitter.

          It seems to me that the Mets hitters are playing to their strengths, they just don’t have many strengths.

          Is it possible that they would have developed the ability to hit more pitches in more locations if they’d spent more of their early careers hacking? Maybe. I dunno.

          Watching Murphy roll into a DP on a first pitch off the plate away actually frustrates me even more than watching Satin strike out looking at a pitch on the corner. While I see some downsides to being more passive, I still prefer it to uncontrolled aggression. Yeah, the Mets fanned 9 times against Aaron Harang, but they also forced him out of the game with 110 pitches in 6 innings and proceeded to beat up on Gus Schlosser. I think that may be how this lineup of scrubs needs to win games.

        • argonbunnies April 16, 2014 at 3:51 am
          …or maybe I’m completely wrong, and if the Mets go up there determined to swing, they’ll take better cuts. 🙂