Mets Game 13: Win Over Diamondbacks

Mets 7 Diamondbacks 3

For all the lack of sleep, long ballgames, and difficult travel, the Mets put out a great effort in burying the snakes.

Mets Game Notes

Zack Wheeler started out throwing 95-96 in the first inning, and held 95 MPH through the third inning. His velocity started to drop to 94-95 around pitches 35-40, then it dipped to 93-94 right around pitches 65-70. He still hit 94 after pitch #70, and held that velocity through 90 pitches, touching 96 MPH at pitch #90. After pitch #90, though, his fastball dipped to 93 MPH and he lost command of all pitches. Terry Collins pulled him at that point (97 pitches), with one out in the 7th inning and men on first and second. I’m not sure if dropping from 95-96 to 93-94 is a big deal, but I wonder if Wheeler might be more suited to the bullpen if he’s going to continue to run out of gas at 90 pitches — which is something he’s been doing since we’ve seen him as a big-leaguer, so it’s not necessarily due to it being early in the year. We’ll see as the season wears on.

Wheeler’s curveball looked good in the first five innings, then it tailed off gradually.

Bobby Ojeda mentioned that Wheeler’s mechanics looked “great” and “consistent” and that “he wasn’t following through toward first base like last time.” To me, the mechanics were not “great” as his arm continues to be behind, particularly at foot strike. To me, his mechanics were not necessarily consistent — he occasionally had better timing, but only infrequently. As for following through toward first base, yes, he was, fairly frequently, and there is video to prove it. I hope people other than former MLB pitchers are looking at Wheeler’s motion and considering necessary changes that will prevent injury. According to their official blog, the Mets are using some kind of high-tech, cutting-edge, in-game biomechanical analysis. However, analysis is useless unless someone knows what they’re looking at and can apply fixes when needed. It’s kind of like having an X-ray or an MRI taken, and then not having a doctor to interpret the results, and/or a surgeon to perform the surgery.

And yes, it’s possible to perform well / put up good numbers with a dangerous process. MLB pitchers do it all the time (and then their arms blow out).

Eight-out save for Carlos Torres — talk about old school.

Good night for Lucas Duda, eh? Four for five with two RBI as he raised his average above .300. Maybe he should be installed as the everyday first baseman. Oh, wait …

Daniel Murphy shed the hipster beard, presumably to shed the slump, and it seemed to have worked. Perhaps having less hair on his face eliminated distraction from seeing pitches and allowed him to focus better. Or maybe less weight on the face led to quicker hands. Whatever — the beard was weird anyway, unless Murph planned on hanging out in Bushwick, Brooklyn sucking down local beer and nibbling porkbelly-kale-quinoa wraps while strumming acoustic guitar.

It seemed like every time Murphy came to the plate, Keith Hernandez said, “this game is about to be blown wide open.” Jeez, Keith, when are you going to admit that Daniel is your illegitimate son?

Murphy made multiple acrobatic plays in the field and is often looking somewhat natural at second base. Dare I say he’s on the verge of being adequate with the glove? It’s still early, but there’s hope. Again, maybe it’s the clean-shaven face that helps make him look better.

Pleased, but displeased, to see Curtis Granderson ram into the fence in the first inning. Loved the effort, of course, hated the result, which turned out to be left forearm, rib cage, and knee contusions. Grandy seemed to swing the bat OK afterward, but he was letting go of his top (left) hand, which was the side he jammed into the wall. Though I’m fairly sure his contract will be a bust, I still love watching Granderson play and see him as an ideal ambassador of the sport — one who we hope youngsters look up to — so I hope he can recover and get back on the field quickly.

Martin Prado is one of my favorite ballplayers of all-time (though, I’m still not convinced he and Omar Infante are different people), but, hitting cleanup? No. Strange. That’s all I got.

One of Kevin Burkhardt’s pieces focused on Juan Lagares, and how Lagares has been working hard on swinging only at pitches in the strike zone. Burkhardt went on to mention that, according to fangraphs.com, Lagares swung at 35% of pitches out of the strike zone in 2013, but had only swung at 32% out of the zone this year. Um, really? We’re going to compare 421 plate appearances to 51, and make hay over a 3% difference? OK. Hey, I get it — Lagares is trying to be more disciplined, and he’s hitting really well thus far. But if you’re going to quote stats, maybe wait until there’s a slightly larger sample size, and a slightly more stark contrast in the numbers, OK? The conspiracy theorist in me wonders if SNY daily talking points include “pump up Juan Lagares in every possible way!”

Speaking of Lagares, he left the ballgame in the 7th with what seemed like a hamstring issue. As mentioned above, I enjoy watching Curtis Granderson and will be disappointed if he can’t play full-speed going forward. Similarly, Lagares has been enjoyable to watch thus far this year, and it will be another disappointment if he’s sent to the bench. Hopefully, it’s just a minor twinge (but, not the kind of minor twinge that used to keep Jose Reyes out for half-seasons at a time).

What are the odds on Kirk Gibson making it through the end of April as manager of the D’backs? What about making it through the end of this week? He’s been dealt a difficult hand, but, a GM can’t blame himself, can he? My guess is that Kevin Towers will pass the blame and therefore stave off his own forced exit by at least five months.

Wasn’t Ryan Rowland-Smith an ABC newscaster?

The Mets struck out 10 times in this game, so they’re keeping their 10-per-game average going. But who cares as long as they win, right?

Next Mets Game

The Mets and Diamondbacks do it again in Arizona at 9:40 PM Right Coast Time. Jenrry Mejia goes to the mound against Bronson Arroyo. So this is where Arroyo wound up? I guess I missed that over the winter; for some reason I thought the Dodgers signed him (they signed everyone else, it seemed like).

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. argonbunnies April 15, 2014 at 2:25 am
    I’m rooting hard for Granderson, but TC needs to keep an open mind to rotating Curtis along with the other guys, and maybe a week out of the lineup will prove that point. Granderson is a huge liability hitting 4th right now. If CY comes back hot and takes his place, the lineup will markedly improve. Lagares needs to be in there every day, and EY has his uses (including being a better bet against lefties than Granderson or Murphy).

    Torres looks good, but it made me ill to go straight from reading Collins’ quotes about how Rice was overused last year to seeing Torres’ 3rd multi-inning stint in 4 days. Enjoy Carlos while you can, Mets fans — he’ll be great in the first half, but probably awful or under the knife in the second.

    Wheeler has lost his “hot prospect” shine for me. His fastball is hard and runs, but it’s not the sort of nasty pitch he can just chuck toward the plate and get swings and misses with. He actually needs to locate in order to be interesting, and he’s yet to do that. Mejia’s stuff is more exciting, as is watching Gee and Colon paint. It wouldn’t surprise me if Wheeler blossoms into a true asset in 2017 or so, but I want signs of imminent contention now, so Zack’s bumming me out in that regard.

    About Lagares’ chase percentage, I agree it made for an unconvincing sound byte, but at the same time, I’m often surprised by how much tiny differences matter in baseball. For example, a guy with control problems or a nibbler might throw 59% strikes, while a guy who pounds the zone might throw 65%. Tiny! A .240 and a .270 hitter are only 3% apart too. So maybe Lagares’ 3% decrease in chasing does mean something! Ya never know…

    • Joe Janish April 15, 2014 at 1:12 pm
      Although I doubt TC is paying attention to pitch counts vs. days rest, in his defense, Carlos Torres’ pitch counts were below the 25-pitch threshold on Thursday (21 pitches), Friday (24 pitches), and Saturday (4), so, it was technically “safe” for him to throw again on Monday. Research says no days rest are required for under 25 pitches; once you go over 25, at least one full day off the mound is required.

      Now, you could argue that Torres might’ve thrown another dozen or so pitches in the bullpen, but for whatever reason, science doesn’t recognize those pitches (which confounds and irritates me). You could also argue that TC was really pushing the limit by sending Torres back on the mound on Sunday for 4 pitches after throwing 45 over the previous two days. But, Torres was effective, and didn’t seem to be fatigued on Monday night, so it could also be argued that he was OK.

      If TC puts Torres in the game tonight, shame on him — he needs a full day off, and that includes the bullpen / warming up. No mound at all today — if Torres wants to pick up a ball, it should be flat ground throwing only.

      The limits should really be recognized, and when they’re pushed, the eyes HAVE TO take over. So if we see a pitcher throw 28 pitches one day, then come back the next day and his velocity is down, or his command is off, or something about his mechanics / timing isn’t quite right, then he shouldn’t be on the mound.

      Wheeler, to me, projects as a Jon Niese / Mike Pelfrey — a #3 who sometimes looks like a #2, on a really good day, looks like an ace.

      Yes, tiny differences matter in baseball — agreed. But sample sizes also matter, and 51 plate appearances is nothing. Do we think Juan Lagares will compete for the batting title this year, based on his first 51 PAs? I don’t — I need to see him keep this up through 250-300 before believing it. Same goes for every other stat attached to his hitting.

      • argonbunnies April 15, 2014 at 7:50 pm
        The only sign of fatigue I saw from Torres was in his pick-off throw to first — he took a leisurely step over and lobbed the ball — so maybe he’s fine and just doesn’t like called pick-off throws. I still find the usage pattern alarming, though.

        Go ahead and compare Wheeler to Niese, but dude, Pelf was not a #3 who occasionally looked like a #2. Pelf was a AAAA player who occasionally looked like a #2. If Wheeler really reminds you of Pelf, you should lobby the team to convert Zack to relief today.

        Personally, I find the poor command and unreliable secondary stuff similar, but hitters seemed to have a much easier time with Pelf’s stuff. Zack gets away with a lot more mistakes.

        Re: Lagares, agreed that 50 PAs is nothing.

        • Joe Janish April 15, 2014 at 10:20 pm
          Mike Pelfrey was absolutely a #3 in 2008 and 2010; in fact, in the first half of ’10, he was one of the top 5 pitchers in baseball. That’s the Pelfrey I’m comparing him to, not the Pelfrey we saw from late 2010 – on.

          After looking more deeply into Wheeler’s 2013 MLB starts, and watching a few more of 2014 starts, I may very well lobby Wheeler for the ‘pen. Better to plan for it earlier rather than later. Who knows when Parnell will be back and in what form? And he’ll be on the wrong side of 30 and with free agency on the horizon anyway. So it might make sense to convert Wheeler to what may very well be a more fitting role, if his DNA reads as reliever rather than starter.

  2. DanB April 15, 2014 at 6:54 am
    For those of us who wanted both Davis and Duda replaced at first base, it is possible both will be in the lineup if both Lagares and Granderson are on DL. By the way, didn’t Bay start off cold and then ran into a fence or two before really tanking? Ugh.
  3. DaveSchneck April 15, 2014 at 8:22 am
    Joe,
    Interesting to hear Keith Hernandez say something akin to “your” 2 day rest rule as it related to Torres finishing the game and getting off until Friday. Let’s see if Terry keeps up with his reading of your blog.

    When Wheeler gets tired, it happens fast and he just can’t throw a strike. I would be great if the crop of young starters was so good that the Syndergaards, Monteros, DeGroms and Matzs push Wheeler to the bullpen.

    I was laughing at that Lagares drop fro 35% to 32%. That might actually be one less swing at a ball so far.

    BTW, I fully agree about the rest rule, but this behavior won’t changes without some changes to the game or its rules. Expanding rosters by 2 players (while eliminating the adulterated rule) could help. Something could be negotiated as part of the collective bargaining agreement about proper rest, but that is doubtful. The game has obviously changed with regards to the strategy of running up pitch counts and use of relief pitching, but the current roster size and/or rules of pitching changes have not kept up. Not sure, but perhaps there is a modification that could help without changing the essence of the game or lengthing the avg. playing time.

    • Joe Janish April 15, 2014 at 1:21 pm
      Dave, good points and ideas on MLB’s behavior and rules. I’d argue that it’s time to cut some teams, rather than expand rosters — but that’s me. For me the talent is already diluted, and we shouldn’t have teams like the ’13 Astros and Marlins considered “MLB” — but that’s another can of worms.

      What doesn’t make sense is resting Torres until Friday. He only needs one day off. You don’t necessarily rest someone for cumulative pitches over several days — it’s more about following the pitch counts on a daily basis, monitoring the pitcher’s motion and verbal feedback (i.e., “I’m feeling good, but my arm seems slow today”). But, I guess with Thursday being an off day, the Mets figure to give him all three days off. Not necessary, and, for someone who relies almost exclusively on location, not sure it’s a good idea. At minimum, I’d want Torres throwing 15-20 pitches in a bullpen session on Thursday, to keep him sharp. That likely won’t happen on an off day.

  4. crozier April 15, 2014 at 11:47 am
    Nice entry, Joe. I watched Wheeler’s off-the-cliff 7th inning with the same concerns. Though since I’ve yet to see a commanding 7th inning performance from the rotation beyond Colon’s second game, I have to wonder if six innings is the new seven. If so, well…not good.

    As to Murphy: isn’t it enough to hate on his defense, baserunning, and inability to produce a decent OBP? Now you’re going after the beard and suggesting he’s Keith’s bast*rd offspring. What’s next? Irish jokes?

    I have no issues with noting Largare’s strike zone swing pct. is improved over last year; I think it was noted that it was too early to draw conclusions, but a downward trend is a good thing. The idea is that it continues to improve.

    Duda getting four hits was swell, really; I just hope he doesn’t figure he’s reached his quota for the week, the way his two-HR outburst could presage an otherwise power-free April.

    • Joe Janish April 15, 2014 at 1:26 pm
      Starters should be able to go 115-120 pitches every five days, IF they properly rest in between. The problem is that they don’t — they’re throwing bullpens and long toss two days and three days after their starts. If they did a better job of understanding and managing recovery, they’d pitch further into games and not be as susceptible to injury. I’m also not sure that all MLB pitchers are properly conditioned to throw 100+ game pitches — I think the pitch counts they work with in spring training stop at 90-100, when they really should be going up to at least 140-160 when you consider pregame warmups and 8 pitches in between innings.

      I’ve done the Murphy as Keith’s child before — you were sleeping that day. 🙂 And that beard WAS weird.

  5. mckeeganson April 15, 2014 at 12:07 pm
    Is it possible that Wheeler’s lack of stamina could have something to do with his very slight build? I fully understand that more bulk doesn’t equal increased endurance, but he really looks like he could stand to add 15-20 pounds to his frame at the very least. In any case, a better outing by him was nice to see, as our pitching squad all seemed to struggle in their 3rd appearance prior to Wheeler.

    The Lagares injury is certainly a blow as he has been our best all-around player thus far. Chris Young has been absolutely tearing it up in AAA, following a strong Spring training and the hope is that he really has improved his plate approach. I don’t understand why they wouldn’t just call him up now, instead of waiting til Friday, but this is the Mets.

    Tejada is already the worst statistical SS in all of baseball:
    http://espn.go.com/mlb/stats/batting/_/position/ss/sort/WARBR/count/41

    • Joe Janish April 15, 2014 at 1:36 pm
      I don’t know of any scientific correlation between big body and better durability (or the opposite). A larger frame requires more force to move, so I’d guess being bigger isn’t necessarily an advantage. I’ve never bought into the MLB scout theory that bigger is better, at any position. Football, yes. Basketball, sure, it helps to be tall. Baseball? It’s all about technique. Pedro Martinez threw 97-MPH through 9 innings, and he wasn’t big. Whitey Ford was a little guy. Randy Johnson, Don Sutton, Fergie Jenkins, and Steve Carlton were all skinny guys.

      Wheeler’s issue may very well be mechanical — I see definite flaws that put undue stress on his arm. Perhaps if he could get his hand to the right place at foot strike, he’d use more of his body to pitch, and therefore have more endurance.

      Or, maybe Wheeler’s muscle tissue isn’t built for endurance — maybe he’s a sprinter, not a long-distance runner. That’s genetics, and can’t be changed.

      Maybe he simply hasn’t been properly conditioned to go beyond 80-90 pitches.

      Maybe it’s a combination of all of the above.

      Regarding Tejada, it’s still early. He has over 140 games to move up to second- or third-worst.

      • argonbunnies April 15, 2014 at 8:05 pm
        The force required to throw a baseball hard is the same regardless of the size of the pitcher. However, different pitchers do generate that force in different ways. A heavy dude with long arms exerts himself more to generate decent arm speed, but decent arm speed puts a lot on the ball. A light guy with short arms doesn’t exert himself as much to get to that arm speed, but needs more arm speed to achieve the same velocity. Randy Johnson looks like he’s leisurely playing catch compared to Pedro Martinez’s whip-like delivery. Both of their elbow ligaments are undergoing the same torque, but for different reasons. (If Randy tried to throw like Pedro, he’d release one 110-mph pitch and then have to go pick his forearm up from the on deck circle.)

        Anyway, it wouldn’t surprise me if different styles are prone to different problems early in the delivery. Tim Lincecum can no longer generate his former arm speed, possibly due to losing the flexibility he once used for his dramatic tilt/reach/leap. Big guys, on the other hand, may rely more on core/leg strength to stabilize all that weight they’re moving. These are just guesses, though.

        • Joe Janish April 15, 2014 at 10:31 pm
          Interesting points.The baseball is only 5 ounces., so how much is it really about the force applied to the ball, as opposed to moving the body? Honestly, I’m not sure, as physics isn’t my strength. A guy with big, long, heavy arms (as well as heavier trunk, neck, head, etc.) is going to take more effort to move. If a guy’s upper body weighs 120 lbs., does that extra 5 oz. really make a difference?

          We should learn to avoid thinking about “arm” and “arm strength” when talking about throwing a ball, because velocity is as much about technique. More MPH doesn’t come from doing shoulder presses or some other training focused specifically on the throwing arm — it comes from better timing so that the entire body can move the shoulder faster.

          If mechanics are exactly the same, and one pitcher is bigger than the other, then it’s possible that the bigger pitcher will have a few more MPH. I’m not sure whether or not the strain / effort is the same, though — that’s far beyond my knowledge.

        • argonbunnies April 17, 2014 at 4:45 am
          Er, sorry, I was using “force” in the specific physics sense, not the more general sense. I meant mass times acceleration (and indeed, the mass of the ball is trivial here). Big guys have more mass; to throw as hard, little guys need more acceleration. But this doesn’t mean that little guys’ ligaments are more stressed, because the force a pitcher applies to the ball (be it more from mass or more from acceleration) is proportional to the stress placed on the elbow (according to Slate magazine, anyway).

          In that sense, both pitcher types are exerting the same amount of effort — the big guy is exerting to move more mass, the little guy is exerting to muster more acceleration, and it balances out. What I’m wondering is whether the difference in the type of effort required is important.

  6. friend April 15, 2014 at 2:20 pm
    “So this is where Arroyo wound up? I guess I missed that over the winter”

    No, you didn’t miss it. You must have a different problem:

    > Bronson Arroyo, Fernando Rodney, K-Rod, Carlos Marmol, Luis Ayala Off the Table
    >
    > Posted on February 8, 2014 at 1:36 pm by Joe Janish.
    > …
    > Bronson Arroyo agreed to a deal with the Diamondbacks

    • Joe Janish April 15, 2014 at 10:32 pm
      Take-away message: don’t get old.

      Thank you, friend.

  7. Garett April 15, 2014 at 4:40 pm
    what is making the Mets K so much? I couldn’t believe they led the NL with 1,800 last year. Can they see pitches well playing at home? something has to give here with all these whiffs…
    • argonbunnies April 15, 2014 at 7:51 pm
      Lack of MLB-caliber hitters.
      • Joe Janish April 15, 2014 at 10:33 pm
        Yes, that, as well as, lack of MLB-caliber hitters.

        😉

  8. Garett April 15, 2014 at 4:46 pm
    Grandy should be playing center. All his life he’s been the general in the outfield. I know Juanny Beisbol is great, but bringing in a vet like Grandy, paying him all that $$ he’s earned that spot and should be our leader with Cap.
    • DaveSchneck April 15, 2014 at 9:20 pm
      Garett,
      Lagares is the far superior defender at this time. He belongs in CF. I expect Grandy to be fine and provide plus D in RF, even with a limited throwing arm. Hopefully, he’s back out there soon.
      • Joe Janish April 15, 2014 at 10:35 pm
        Agreed – Lagares is far and away a better defender than Granderson at this point in both players’ careers.

        Though, with Lagares on the DL, I’d like to see Granderson play some CF.