Mets Game 51: Win Over Pirates

Mets 4 Pirates 2

Under the direction of new batting coach Lamar Johnson, the Mets explode for four runs on seven hits and six walks to power over the Pittsburgh Pirates in a 4-2 laugher.

Mets Game Notes

OK, I’m being a little facetious. But the Mets did walk a ton and did get big hits, finally. Was it because Dave Hudgens was canned? Because Lamar Johnson was whispering sweet nothings in the hitters’ ears? Or because it was not Edinson Volquez / Dr. Jekyll on the mound, but Julio Reyes / Mr. Hyde?

I put Volquez in the same container as Ubaldo Jimenez and the Oliver Perez of 2005 to 2008 — an absolute crapshoot from one start to the next. Maybe he’ll pitch a no-hitter, or maybe he’ll be gone from the game by the fourth inning — there’s no way to know, and no rhyme nor reason to explain how he can be so successful and so dreadful from one start to the next.

Meanwhile, Jonathon Niese did his usual thing — work quickly, throw strikes, get outs in unspectacular fashion. Until the sixth inning, that is, when, with a two-run lead, he walked three Bucco batters and a two-run single to allow Pittsburgh to tie while jettisoning him from the ballgame.

During the postgame press conference, Terry Collins was flummoxed to provide an explanation for the sudden lack of command by Niese. Or, was Collins pretending to flummoxed? I believe — firmly — that Niese is, and has been, in major arm pain since spring training, and is merely gutting through every start based on his fierce competitiveness and pain killers. I can’t believe I’m the only person wondering how/why Niese’s velocity — at age 27, in the prime of his life — has dropped from the low 90s to the high 80s. I can’t believe that Collins (and Dan Warthen) are truly at a loss to explain Niese’s command issues in the 6th inning of this game, when he was already struggling with command in the fifth, and was struggling to throw his fastball as fast as 87 MPH (with a few clocking in at 85-86) as early as pitch #70. A healthy 27-year-old MLB pitcher who used to touch 93 (or 94, on a great day) as recently as a year ago shouldn’t be running out of gas at 70 pitches. If that’s not a red flag, I don’t know what is. Niese was saved several times earlier in the game by poor hitting and/or great defense, or else the game might have been closer. Niese’s strong numbers, in general, have masked the fact that he is not the healthy young man he should be right now. I’m not going to be blinded by Niese’s sparkling sub-3 ERA, just as I wasn’t blinded by Johan Santana‘s no-hitter — this is a pitcher throwing with pain, with an injury, and is dangerously close to being done for the season. The shame of all this is that his mechanical flaw could have been easily fixed a long time ago.

So on to the positives … Ruben Tejada had one of his best days as a Major Leaguer. Does that make you happy, or annoy you? To me, Tejada playing well just confuses an already confusing situation at shortstop. I’ve come around to believe that the Mets should stick Wilmer Flores at the position and see what happens. But then Tejada comes up with these spectacular days, making one wonder — is he really this good, or is he only this good once in a while, the way Omar Quintanilla (or any other part-time player) occasionally can be? If Tejada IS this good, why can’t he play at this level all the time? Is it motivation? A mental thing?

One question that no longer needs to be answered is whether Juan Lagares should be starting every day in center field. He is now out of his hot streak but still proving that he’s made tremendous strides at the plate since last year. Why he’d ever be removed from the lineup is the only question that needs to be asked.

I liked seeing Jenrry Mejia used for a two-inning save, and would love to see more two-inning saves in MLB in general — as long as managers understand and respect recovery guidelines. Since Mejia threw 37 pitches, that means he’s out tomorrow, and should not even touch a baseball — he needs one full day of rest. If the Mets have a save situation on Wednesday afternoon, give the ball to Jeurys Familia, see what he can do.

Though the Mets scored 4 runs, they were 3-for-16 with RISP, and struck out 12 times. Not much has changed in the Lamar Johnson Era, but it’s still early.

Meanwhile, Mets pitching walked 8 Pittsburgh batters. That’s too many.

All the walks on both sides, combined with way too many mound conferences and other such dilly-dallying led to a ballgame that lasted a far-too-long 3 hours, 43 minutes. This is excruciating, especially on school nights. I’m starting to wonder if there are better ways to spend my time.

Next Mets Game

The rubber game between these two clubs starts at 1:10 PM on Wednesday afternoon. Bartolo Colon faces Charlie Morton. I hope the Mets batters wear their body armor, as Flemington, NJ native Morton leads MLB with 10 HBPs.

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. Corey Gorey May 28, 2014 at 12:58 am

    I think the first thing you should do is send your post about Niese to anyone–ANYONE–who might pass it by the eyes of a person within earshot of a person on the Mets’ staff. They really need to hear these things, and as a fan, I can’t stand watching these players go down because of outdated/inefficient ways of dealing with preparation, use and injury.

    Totally have the same feelings about Tejada. It annoys me when he’s good, because I can’t tell if he just happened to try tonight for some spooked-cat-like reason, or he really just got lucky, thereby momentarily smoke-screening us to the fact that he should never be a major league shortstop.

    Keep Lagares at CF every day. If nothing else, he was born in Costanza, DR. I don’t know if Howie Rose ever mentioned that and made “Seinfeld” jokes about it, but there are a lot of games every season–about 432.5 with Spring Training and the Home Run Derby.

    • argonbunnies May 28, 2014 at 7:28 am
      Niese isn’t on twitter, but many Mets are…
    • Joe Janish May 28, 2014 at 12:11 pm
      No one in the Mets org. cares what some half-witted blogger thinks about Niese’s (or anyone else’s) pitching mechanics.

      I’m certain the Mets are aware that Niese is shredding his arm every pitch he makes — they just don’t know how to fix it. So they’re allowing Niese to do what Pelfrey did back in 2010 and hoping for the best (

  2. Seymour May 28, 2014 at 2:05 am
    How has Abreu looked in the OF? Because he’s a better option at the dish than Granderson
    • Dan B May 28, 2014 at 9:10 am
      Granderson is fourth or fifth in the league for RBIs in May on a team with a low OBP. Are you sure you want to give up on him?
      • Joe Janish May 28, 2014 at 12:12 pm
        Agreed, Grandy is on fire this month. He’s not the guy who needs to leave the lineup just yet.
    • Dan B May 28, 2014 at 9:17 am
      After Tejada’s one good season I wanted to trade him while his value was high even though a lot considered him “core”. His minor league career did not project him to be an everyday player. Even his good season was really only good for 81 games or do. He’d be a great backup for short and second but on the Mets, backups are the starters.
  3. Doug S. May 28, 2014 at 6:02 am
    Excellent post. Lagares is the real deal. Superb defense and he scored or drove in 3 of the Mets four runs. This team needs to upgrade its up the middle defense and Lagares is key to that.
  4. argonbunnies May 28, 2014 at 7:33 am
    Mets pitching today was terrible — all 3 guys — but bailed out by the defense. Walk, rocket, walk, rocket. Fortunately the rockets were caught. Mejia needs to go back to doing whatever he was doing in the first few innings of his starts. Looks like he might be over-throwing a bit.

    Joe, it looks to me like Niese isn’t striding too far toward first base any more, and hasn’t been for a while. In his previous start, the opposite seemed true — he was opening up too quick, dragging his arm through, and spinning off to the third base side. Against Pittsburgh, I didn’t get much of a read on him, but I agree that he doesn’t look like his old self.

    • Joe Janish May 28, 2014 at 12:21 pm
      I saw the same thing with the Mets pitching — particularly with Mejia, who was giving up some really hard-hit outs.

      As for Niese, I haven’t seen enough angles in his last few starts — the “Emmy Award Winning” TV producer of Mets games is too focused on facial close-ups and fixated on the center-field camera view. From the limited vantage point available to me, I haven’t yet seen Niese land on a straight line to home plate — it still looks, to me, like he’s landing toward first base. Are you sure you’ve seen him “opening up too quick”? Because it can seem like in real time, but when I’ve looked at it on high-speed film, he’s actually landing with the lower body closed, and because his upper body has to over-compensate to get the correct release point, it appears that he’s opening up the upper body. What’s truly happening is that the over-compensation causes his balance to be completely off, and the momentum of his upper-body fighting to get across sends him spinning toward 3B. See the photos here:

      Bottom line is he was struggling to throw 86-87 after 70 pitches. Something is wrong. It’s not a red flag, it’s an effing fire truck siren.

      • argonbunnies May 28, 2014 at 5:05 pm
        It’s true that I didn’t see a clear shot of his foot landing, so I could be wrong. However, when you first mentioned that he was stepping toward first, I was able to see it from the CF camera. The thing I was seeing then, I”m not seeing now.
  5. argonbunnies May 28, 2014 at 7:56 am
    Has anyone else noticed that the Mets rotation hype is pure fiction? Sandy, GKR, and everyone else is talking about how the Mets’ big strength this year has been starting pitching, but our starters’ ERA of 3.92 is 10th in the NL. They’re 9th in innings and 13th in K/BB. The Mets’ rotation is only a strength relative to the rest of the team, not relative to the competition.
    • Dan B May 28, 2014 at 9:29 am
      The hype about the Met’s starting pitching is more about who is not on the major league roster then who is. Project Harvey back at full strength, one of their prospects at #2, an older and wiser Wheeler at the third spot, and Niese and Gee rounding it out and you have a top rotation. But Harvey has to come back, one of the prospects has to be an elite starter, Wheeler has to improve, and the Mets will have to pay Nurse and Gee real money to stay. And they all can’t be traded for a hitter. Not impossible. But an elite starting staff with marginal defense and offense behind it is a 500 ball team.
    • Joe Janish May 28, 2014 at 12:25 pm
      I could swear we discussed exactly this topic last year, and in the spring.

      Mets starting pitching would be outstanding if this was 2006-2010. But it’s 2014, and everyone in MLB has good starting pitching now. It’s not extraordinary to have 4-5 guys who can give a team a “quality start” nearly every time they take the mound.

      I think that people are both stuck in their tiny Mets universe, and/or are not realizing that the game is cycling back to the 1980s, when pitching was more dominant.

  6. DaveSchneck May 28, 2014 at 10:43 am
    My two or three cents –
    Agree that Met pitching was bad last night, but they gutted out a win so I’ll credit the team for that.
    Niese’s velo is a big concern. Additionally, Alderson has no lefty is sight…should Niese go down it is all RHP. Blame that on signing Colon over Kazmir, not monday morning QBing since most of us were looking to sign Scott. But, here is where Jeffy W once again cost the team, and Scott wasn’t pursued.
    Agree that Mets starting pitching is overrated…too many pitches, not going deep enough into games, and Colon has been mostly bad, driving up the staff ERA. They do have potential, and they have given the team a shot to win most every day, and should be credited for that, but many other teams have gotten better results, as the stats bear out.
    Tejada had a great game. He would serve as a strong backup on my team, at both SS and 2B, despite the lack of power and speed. I think he can play well in a part time capacity or as an injury fill in.
    Lagares is fun to watch and root for, and needs to play every day. I would bat him leadoff vs. LHP and lower in the lineup vs. tough RHP.
    Grandy needs to play daily, despite looking lost at the plate at times. He brings good corner D even with a bad arm, and offers some of the only power on the team.
    The D made a difference last night and Collins had the OF gloves on the field at the end of the game, which preserved the win thanks to Grandy’s catch (despite the error by Campbell). Abreu and Flores belong nowhere near the field in late innings when the Mets have a lead.
  7. Dan42 May 28, 2014 at 3:59 pm
    And on a different note, Nick Evans was finally called up by the Diamondbacks after .335/.393/.641 with the Reno Aces over 44 games and 170 PAs, with 11 home-runs. I’d really like to see him do well enough to make it difficult fo them to play Mark Trumbo when he returns from the DL.