Mets Game 22: Win Over Cardinals

Mets 4 Cardinals 1

Mets go two games over .500 for the first time in over a year (April 16, 2013, to be exact), and take three of four from the 2013 NL Champion St. Louis Cardinals. Does this mean the Mets are poised to be the 2014 NL Champions?

Mets Game Notes

Well, stranger things have happened. The 1969 Mets, for example. Let’s try not to get ahead of ourselves just yet, and enjoy the moment. It’s been over a year, after all, since the Mets have been this many games above that magic .500 mark.

Bartolo Colon was brilliant, Lance Lynn less so, in a classic pitching duel that recalled the 1970s / 1980s. I agree with Keith Hernandez — I prefer these games. For me, it’s well-pitched, close ballgames that bring out the best in baseball, because there is less room for error, and every single play — in other words, execution is key. Homerun derby is fun for the casual fan, but, for me, what makes baseball most interesting is the process and the details.

Colon struck out in the third after sending a bunt attempt into foul ground. I get that his value is in throwing strikes and getting outs, but it still irks me that he treats every at-bat as a joke, is an automatic out, and his bunt attempts could be better executed by an average Sunday softballer (man or woman — who am I to be sexist?). Despite his ever-expanding girth, Colon is a very good athlete — there’s no excuse for his inability to bunt. Starting pitchers don’t exactly have full schedules on their off-days, and it’s pretty clear that Colon isn’t spending his extra time in the gym or running sprints, so how about getting into the cage and at least TRYING to become an adequate bunter? When bunting, he holds the bat similarly to how I’ve seen housewives hold a fish they’ve just caught on a party boat (NOW I’m being sexist). It’s an embarrassment to be paid eight figures a year, work for about two hours once every five days, and not be able to adequately execute one of the most basic aspects of your job. Yes, he spent most of his career in the Adulterated League, but now he’s in a league that plays baseball, so learn the new skills. At the company where I work, we just put iPads and new software into the hands of a few salespeople who are beyond retirement age — and you know what? They’ve learned to zip around on those things so well, they can teach others how to use it.

On the other hand, it was enjoyable to watch the crafty Colon work his fastball in all four quadrants of the strike zone, changing speeds with it, using the wind to his advantage, and keeping the Cards off-balance for most of the afternoon.

Considering the extreme wind, I was surprised to see Chris Young blast one into the left-field upper deck. Keith Hernandez was very impressed with Young’s level swing on the chest-high fastball, but truly, there’s nothing impressive about swinging level on a high pitch — it’s the easiest way to hit a high pitch, because the batter’s hands and arms are located at the same level as the pitch. Now, when a batter can keep a level swing on a low pitch — that’s impressive.

Still, a prodigious blast by Young. David Wright seemed to have hit a no-doubter to the left in the initial inning, but a wind gust seemed to have knocked it down — the ball appeared to have hit a wall somewhere up in the air and it fell short of the warning track.

Mets batters took quite a few called strikes, including called strike threes. As we’ve discussed here before, the Mets seem unable to decipher the strike zone, and/or refuse to adjust to the umpire’s strike zone on a particular day. In this case, the umpire’s close strike calls were most definitely strikes when reviewed on slow-motion replays from various angles — and even Gary and Keith agreed with the ump on just about all of them. Yes, it was a big zone, but it was consistent and went both ways. What’s aggravating to me is that nearly every Mets hitter has kept the spirit of Ike Davis going by obnoxiously disagreeing with nearly every called strike via openly questioning the umpire and/or some annoyed gesture (bat twirling, bat tossing, head shaking, etc.). I’m starting to wonder if hitting coach Dave Hudgens has advised his hitters to disagree with home plate umpires and try to embarrass them, because it’s become an epidemic. When the umpire calls a strike, he’s not changing his call, and arguing with him or reacting negatively is only going to motivate some umpires to call all close strikes against you.

Did Daniel Murphy really get credited for a double and RBI on the blooper to shallow center that bounced past a diving Jon Jay in the sixth? How does that work? Credit for a single, yes. But when the center fielder allows a routine Texas Leaguer to skip past him, that’s not an error? The older I get, the less I understand official scoring.

Even more unbelievably, Curtis Granderson was awarded with a single on a routine grounder that was misplayed by defensive replacement Mark Ellis in the seventh. Seriously? Hey, I know Grandy needed a hit more than anybody, but if I’m the opposing pitcher, I’m not pleased with these homer decisions. That play is supposed to be made by a MLB second baseman. It should be made by a high school second baseman.

Strange to see the St. Louis battery working the outside part of the plate to Lucas Duda with the Boudreau shift on in the 6th inning — seems counter-intuitive. Ironically, Lance Lynn froze Duda with an inside change-up for strike three, which had to be a mistake in location.

The eighth-inning shift on Duda was just silly — though, it worked (that time). St. Louis had four infielders to the right of second base. Crazy.

Matt Adams‘ defense at first base led to at least two, if not three Mets runs. Better footwork could have prevented a Lance Lynn throwing error, and his decision to cut off a throw from the outfield (I can’t believe the catcher told him to cut it) allowed Anthony Recker to score in the 7th.

Mets struck out 10 times in this game, and 14 times in game 3, so they’re now at 213 in 22 games — or, 9.7 Ks per game. But, they seem to win when they swing and miss, so, maybe that’s somehow an amazing Moneyball strategy based on the new math? If someone out there can explain, I’m all ears and anxious to see how this plays out over a full season.

Check it out: the Mets have a setup man. His name is Scarlos Torrice.

And my oh my — is Daisuke Matsuzaka the 2014 version of Koji Uehara? Stay tuned, Mets fans …

Next Mets Game

The Mets host the Marlins for a three-game weekend set in Flushing starting at 7:10 PM on Friday night. Zack Wheeler takes the ball against Henderson Alvarez.

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. Joe Bourgeois April 25, 2014 at 1:37 am
    “When the umpire calls a strike, he’s not changing his call, and arguing with him or reacting negatively is only going to motivate some umpires to call all close strikes against you.”

    I learned this in Little League. Let’s go Mets leadership — Collins, Wright, Hudgens, somebody — and try to teach it to the team.

  2. argonbunnies April 25, 2014 at 2:44 am
    EY’s been the worst lately, stalking from the plate and looking at the sky on pitches down the middle at the knees. It seems out of character — maybe he’s just fuming at himself for taking? Or maybe, with a 3-ball count, he’s trying to save face for his premature move toward first?

    Joe, I’m surprised you didn’t mention the extra out Tejada gave the Cards in the 8th. If Torres is unavailable tomorrow, those 8 extra pitches he had to throw because Tejada only got one out on a routine double play grounder are to blame. On the other hand, if it earns Torres a day off, then good, he already needed one. If Terry uses him on Friday we can start the injury countdown. His velocity and command the last two days haven’t been what they were earlier.

    As for Dice-K, he’s the anti-Uehara — with a 3-run lead, Dice-K went to 3-ball counts on his first two batters. Uehara had a string of 3 appearances last year where he threw one ball. Not each game. Total.

    Honestly, I’d like to see Dice-K the closer pitch more like he did in other roles — fewer fastballs. It’s his worst pitch.

    • Joe Janish April 25, 2014 at 12:38 pm
      Argon, thanks for pointing out the Tejada blunder. I’ve been trying very hard to remain optimistic about Tejada and be as fair and balanced as possible. However, toward that end, it seems I trash Daniel Murphy most often.

      I heard Tejada had a good day in the field in game 21, but if he’s not going to provide much offense, he needs to be a standout defender every day.

  3. argonbunnies April 25, 2014 at 2:52 am
    Here’s a question: can hitters recognize 4-seamer vs 2-seamer? Recognizing a slider or curve seems to be absolutely vital to hitting it. If a pitcher’s fastballs are dramatically different, I’d assume that would be the case as well — if you swing for the straight 4-seamer and get something slower that sinks and runs, you’re in trouble.

    If this recognition is difficult, then that may explain Colon’s success. Out there today, he reminded me of the great 2-pitch pitchers of the past — fastball plus one pitch you can’t distinguish from their fastball until it’s too late.

    Incidentally, I remember one game in Mike Pelfrey’s otherwise awful 2009 where he dominated the Rockies, throwing nothing but fastballs, about 50% 2-seamers and 50% 4-seamers. His sinker was vastly more effective once the Rockies were geared up for the 4-seamer. (Of course, success never stuck with Pelf, and I never saw him try to pitch that way again.)

    • Joe Janish April 25, 2014 at 2:11 pm
      It depends on how well is the batter’s vision and ability to read spin quickly. Personally speaking, my vision is terrible — I wear contacts but that makes me “only” 20/20 (top hitters are usually 20/10 to 20/15) — and as such was never one of those people who could see the ball out of the pitcher’s hand. Depending on the velocity, I can usually tell the difference between a four-seamer and two-seamer once it’s about halfway to the plate — especially after facing a pitcher a few times and I know what to look for. Now, with pitchers who throw significantly over 90 MPH, I personally can’t see the spin until the ball is already on top of me and I’ve made my decision to swing or take. Usually, two-seamers are under 90, and the ball looks bigger because of the way the red laces tumble, so the spin is easier to read. Four-seamers, even from 85 MPH, tend to look smaller because you see mostly white until the ball gets close.

      With Colon, my guess is that it’s more about varying the speed, movement, and location than inability for hitters to see the spin. Most pitchers — even a majority of MLBers — can effectively and consistently throw only one or two types of fastballs with movement, and tend to place them in the same areas. Very generally speaking, a pitcher will be able to throw a two-seamer that goes only one way — down and in or down and away — and almost always at the same velocity, and to the same half of the plate, at a consistent level. Some pitchers (Greg Maddux is a classic example) can locate that one sinker (in Maddux’s case, it was “down and in”) to either corner, but often, when a pitcher with average command tries to get fancy with his sinker, he winds up leaving it over the middle of the plate. Colon seems able to throw sinkers that move both ways, on both sides of the plate, at varying levels, and slightly varied speeds — which makes it difficult for a batter to “zone in” on a particular pitch/location.

      Seeing data and percentages regarding fastball types, to me, isn’t always helpful — partially because of the reasons mentioned above (the data is too generalized), and partially because I don’t necessarily trust whoever/whatever is gathering the data (GIGO).

      • argonbunnies April 26, 2014 at 6:49 pm
        Thanks for the account and analysis! So much for my theory that Colon is disguising pitch type. I guess his 4-seamer and 2-seamer are both simply good pitches.

        As for changing speeds and movement on a given pitch, I know Colon has that rep, but I haven’t seen it much. Most of the fastballs he’s thrown look to me like they’re in one of three categories:
        1) pretty straight at 91-93 mph
        2) wicked sink and run at 87-89 mph
        3) mistakes — balls that may have different movement, but also missed the target by a ton

        Also, for all the talk about Colon changing locations, I haven’t seen the catcher set many high or inside targets.

        I’m guessing that precise location low and away is really his top skill.

  4. DaveSchneck April 25, 2014 at 8:14 am
    Joe,
    Excellent recap, as I missed this one. Thanks. Agree on the pitcher bunting, which should be practiced more on off days, although they should wear hockey masks to avoid what happened to AJ Burnett. Agree on Met knowledge of the strike zone – the previous game Captain Kirk led off and watched a 2 strike fastball from Wacha cut the plate in half. Scary with their hitting philosphy expecially that it looks like they watch a lot of called strike fastballs. I could understand offspeed Ks, especially swings and misses, since these are the best pitchers in the world. Tejada made a few webgems this week, but his still looks inadequate in the field to me. To follow up on you official scoring critique, the night before, Tejada performed worse than a little leaguer on a run down play that would have ended the inning. No error, why I have no idea, and Niese then gave up a double and was charged with an earned run.

    Lastly, if I can make a request (obnoxious in itself given the free content) – could you use the term Adulterated League at least once a week? That’s as accurate a baseball term as there is. Thanks.

    • Joe Janish April 25, 2014 at 2:20 pm
      Thanks Dave!

      Requests are always accepted, sometimes fulfilled. I usually use that term at least once a week, but sometimes shorten it to “A.L.” to save space.

  5. NormE April 25, 2014 at 7:10 pm
    Joe,
    Regarding the Adulterated League, I couldn’t agree more with you in your dislike of the situation. However, I doubt if it’s ever going to disappear. The MLBPA and the owners are in favor of the DH rule. The union believes that it prolongs careers of older (usually higher paid) players. The owners like the perceived increase in offensive production. They probably like the idea of protecting their highly paid pitchers from possibly getting hurt while batting.
    Could enticing the union by increasing roster size sway them? I don’t know. The likelyhood, unfortunately, is that sometime in the future MLB will decide that playing under different rules in each league is not desirable and the DH will spread to the NL.
    By the way, when I speak with fans of Adulterated League teams I am surprised that so many of them think the DH is great. Usually they are much younger than I am (but that’s true of most people). Too bad!
    • Joe Janish April 25, 2014 at 9:24 pm
      Norm, what’s going to disappear is baseball. This nonsense of 15 teams in each league and expanding interleague is all driven toward universal DH, because pitching, defense, and execution are far too boring for the most average fan. Having an extra hitter in the lineup makes the game much more exciting, according to the bean counters and marketing people sitting in their offices going through the survey data.

      Agreed, I also hear the poisoned, privileged, and short-attention-spanned youth extolling virtues of the designated pinch hitter. It’s no surprise, considering how society has moved from valuing a job well done to a job done quickly and cheaply and with as much glittery, shiny stuff as possible.

      Maybe it’s time to change the name of this blog to “MetsCurmudgeon.com.”

      • crozier April 25, 2014 at 11:05 pm
        Sorry, Joe: baseball’s not going anywhere. The expansion hasn’t hurt its popularity; rather the opposite. Maybe you should research attendance stats from back when there were 16 teams. For example, the attendance for the 1951 Giants-Dodgers playoff game – you might be familiar with it – was around 30,000, or 20,000 below capacity. Unimaginable today.

        As for the – what? – “poisoned youth” extolling the virtues of the DH, well…it’s 40 years old. You’ll find a lot of AARP folks extolling its virtues.

        Seriously, hate on the game all you want; it’s your column. Just don’t kid yourself that you’re an old curmudgeon wishing it was 1972 or something. I’ve found that reporters bemoaned the lack of fundamentals even then.

        What I’m saying is, your condition is older than you are.

        • Joe Janish April 26, 2014 at 8:11 am
          “Sorry, Joe: baseball’s not going anywhere. The expansion hasn’t hurt its popularity; rather the opposite. ”

          Crozier, you seem to miss my point — once the NL starts using the DH, that’s it, no more baseball. It’s the only league left still playing the sport. It doesn’t matter how many thousands of people are watching.

          Unless you consider games using the DH as “baseball”?

        • crozier April 26, 2014 at 10:13 am
          Joe, I’m an NL guy like you, but the game has changed enormously over the years and it’s done better than merely survive the changes.

          The DH is well-established. In the various communities I take part in, there are plenty of diehard, knowledgable baseball people who not only take no issue with the DH, but actively want to see it enacted in the NL.

          I’m no advocate for the DH, but I understand the argument: most pitcher at bats are meaningless. They can’t hit, they don’t run well; in short, they aren’t offensive players. The notion of offense vs. defense isn’t a bogus idea, and if the DH had been there all along, I can’t imagine you’d be picking it apart now.

        • Dan B April 26, 2014 at 11:21 am
          I admit I dislike the DH. But I don’t see the logic in the arguments for it. For example the idea that it protects high paying salaries has no economic basis. National league teams’ budgets are based on revenue. The money they would spend on a DH is instead spent on more well rounded players. Also pitchers rarely bat in the later innings–pinch hitters do. We are actually discussing two to three atbats in first six innings. Does having a DH hit in the fourth innings really add much excitement to the game? Maybe if Met pitchers could actually get a hit we might not be arguing this. By the way didn’t Golden hit for the triple crown for pitchers in 1985, the same year he pitched to the triple crown for pitching?
        • crozier April 26, 2014 at 1:13 pm
          Dan, the original arguments for the DH had nothing to do with preserving salaries. It was based on the pitcher being viewed as a member of the defense, with no offensive capabilities.

          That the DH is a modern desecration is to ignore history: one of the first people to float the idea was Connie Mack. In 1906. It was pushed for by a league president as early as the 1920s. This is why it’s puzzling to hear people say “call me old fashioned, but…” when the DH is an idea as old as baseball as we know it.

        • NormE April 26, 2014 at 2:20 pm
          It seems to me that one of the arguments against the DH is that some in-game strategy is lost. The idea of when to leave a pitcher in when his turn to bat is coming up is one piece of managerial plotting that is gone. Pitchers who can actually hit add to that strategy. The use of the sac. bunt in the NL is a part of the game minimized in the AL.

          Football has changed with the advent of situational substitutions—defensive players who are only in on passing downs, or third down running backs. I guess one could look upon the DH in baseball in that light. A pitcher can be seen as a positional specialist.

          Personally I don’t care for it and I know it’s a losing battle. But, I find the more strategic managing in the NL much more interesting than the same old-same old managing in the AL.

        • argonbunnies April 26, 2014 at 5:23 pm
          I think the foundation of the argument against the DH is not that the DH is unpopular (for anyone, including the majority of fans who watch games in person or on TV), but rather that what’s popular isn’t always best. The objection is an attempt to prioritize aesthetics, history, strategy, uniqueness, the identity of the sport, and fear of the slippery slope into a truly different type of game, over and above today’s dollars and ratings.

          None of us DH-haters can see the future, but we know that one edge baseball has over other major sports is its sense of history, continuity, and statistical chronicle. The number of fans who got upset about juicers breaking ancient records illustrates this. Accordingly, there’s some value in trying to keep baseball the same game it always has been (insofar as that’s actually possible). Exactly which assaults on tradition are tragedy vs progress is, of course, a matter of taste. But the considerations of DH-less ball certainly appeal to many die-hard fans’ taste.

        • DanB April 27, 2014 at 8:34 am
          If someone wants to argue the game is more interesting with the DH, then I can’t argue against that (though I can strongly disagree). However I have heard arguments that the player’s union would be against getting rid of it and that argument makes no sense to me since it doesn’t effect the number of players on a roster nor does it effect the aggregate salary in the league. All it may do is effect the longevity of older players who might have more power within the union. My dislike of the DH has nothing to do with the history. My dislike of the DH has to do with the diminished need to “follow” a baseball game compared to “watching” a game. What I mean is that without the DH, you need to pay attention to the development of the game to decide whether or not a pinch hitter is needed, how to pitch to the number eight hitter, whether to double switch, etc… With the DH, you could turn on the game in the seventh inning and get the same satisfaction as watching from the first inning. I think promoting “following” the game is a better long term strategy compared to “watching” a game. The 162 game baseball season is the ultimate “following” sport. I understand the need for instant gratification in society today, but baseball could develop a better niche if it continues to serve those who prefer deeper involvement.