Mets Game 53: Win Over Phillies

Mets 4 Phillies 1

Mets win game one of the epic battle for the basement, and remain undefeated in The Lamar Johnson Era.

Mets Game Notes

Great outing by Zack Wheeler, who struck out 9, walked none, and allowed one run on 4 hits in a 6 1/3 inning, 108-pitch effort. I was a little surprised to see Wheeler pulled immediately after Marlon Byrd hit a solo homer off of him, considering that Wheeler still looked dominant and Terry Collins has recently been pushing his starters into the 120-pitch range.

As Keith Hernandez noted early on, Wheeler established the fastball inside right away, particularly to the lefthanded hitters, and that was a huge factor in his success. Also big was that he had a good curveball working, with good break and over the plate, and he was subtracting via a “backdoor slider” — which, in essence, he as using deftly as a change-up. Wheeler was humming his fastball at 96 MPH per the SNY gun in the first two frames. “It’s the best I’ve seen him pitch,” Keith said in the second inning. Agreed. If there was a negative, it was that he threw too many pitches toward that early success — 43 in the first two innings. A quick third, though, brought the average per inning count down to a more manageable level.

By the fifth inning, and around pitch #70, Wheeler’s fastball was dipping down to 94 MPH, then down to 93 in the sixth / around pitch #85. That’s still good heat, and he occasionally hit 95-96 afterward, and he did a nice job of “pitching” with lower MPH, but it’s still worrisome that he can’t maintain top velocity through at least 85-90 pitches. The kid is only 24 years old, there’s no reason he can’t keep the fastball going at 96. Something is not right. And no, I don’t believe he’s doing it on purpose, as Ron Darling suggested (which we’ll discuss further down).

Vic Black pitched well in relief, due mainly to a sharp-breaking curveball. If he can keep that 12-6 break and throw strikes with his 95-MPH fastball, he should be OK. How big is that “if”? Pretty big. I got a kick out of Keith talking about Black’s curveball — at first he acknowledged that a great curveball was more effective than a great slider, but then he sounded a little like he was unimpressed with Black’s. “He’s making a lot of batters look foolish, like they’ve never seen a curveball in their life,” he said in what sounded like it may have been almost an annoyed, disgusted tone — the kind where you could feel Keith looking back in time, when he was in uniform. If there was a bat in the booth, I think he would have picked it up and charged down to the field to face Black himself. “Show me whatcha got, meat!”

Good call by Ron Darling in comparing Black to Neil Allen — I definitely see that.

Lots of called third strikes against the Phillies hitters — 6 of the 15 on the night — and all were good calls by home plate umpire Doug Eddings, who was calling strikes at the bottom of the knees and Philadelphia never adjusted. I was especially surprised to see so many called strikes in general taken by Chase Utley, who seemed to be off his game at the plate.

Ryan Howard couldn’t catch up to any fastballs, regardless of whether they were below or at the letters, even when he appeared to be guessing / expecting the heat.

Awesome seeing Lucas Duda drop down a bunt for a single against the shift leading off the second inning. It was so well-placed, it would’ve been a hit had the third baseman been playing in his normal spot, rather than in short left field. Keep doing it, Duda, until teams change their strategy against you.

Ron Darling expressed his opinion that Mets starting pitchers should be pushed to 115-120 pitches per start, if needed, as the starting pitching is the team’s strength and that’s what’s needed to win. I would agree, IF the starters respected the recovery guideline of not throwing off a mound for all four days afterward. However, I’m 99.999% certain that every Mets starter throws off a mound within two or three days after a start. Ron also said, in response to Gary Cohen mentioning that teams are “tending to be cautious with their young pitchers,” that “… they’re all getting hurt anyway, so what’s the difference? They’re doing all they’re supposed to, to make sure they don’t get hurt, 45 Tommy Johns this year, way to go.”

Well, no, Ron, they’re NOT doing all they’re supposed to do — pitchers are not getting enough rest between outings, they’re not getting their mechanical flaws corrected, and they’re not properly responding to early warning signs of injury. And I don’t mean to pick on Ron — this is the attitude and mentality throughout baseball, by every single ignorant rock head in the game.

Cohen responded by quoting Dr. James Andrews saying that “more than anything else, pitchers can’t max out on every pitch, they have to dial back a little bit.” More nonsense, and completely unproven — that’s a theory by a surgeon whose opinion is shaped almost entirely by pitchers with injuries. That’s an incomplete sample from a scientific perspective — there has to be a “control group,” and I doubt Andrews has experience with healthy pitchers, because healthy pitchers aren’t walking into his office. But what the heck do I know? I’m just an idiot blogger who respects science, and we all know that science can’t help baseball. Wait, are injuries increasing, or decreasing, while this tiny group of people — former baseball players and a handful of surgeons — have been, for 20 years now, talking about their theories based on non-scientific methods?

Kevin Burkhardt relayed a discussion with Curtis Granderson regarding kids playing baseball year-round, which was further discussed by GKR. All agreed that it was “important” for kids to play all kinds of sports, rather than specializing in baseball. Well, hmmm … I think it depends on the kid, and the age of the kid, and what the kid wants to do. If a kid WANTS TO play 80 or 100 or more baseball games a year, why not let him? If a kid wants to mix it up, that’s fine too. But the bottom line is that it should be up to the kid, not the parent. As for the idea that a baseball player can pick up skills from other sports, that to me, is overblown and a myth. You can only get better at something — anything — by doing it. Picking up “quickness” and “explosiveness” in basketball is not really translatable to what is done on a baseball field — at least, it’s no more effective than doing similar actions on a baseball diamond. Once in a while an outfielder may need to jump over a fence to steal a homerun, but otherwise, how is slam-dunking, rebounding, or any other jumping helpful to a baseball player? It’s not, and in fact, can put an athlete in more danger of injury. At the same time, if a kid likes basketball and wants to play it, he should. That’s what life in general should be about — doing things you want to do, and less things you have to do.

Utility infielder Cesar Hernandez had a terrible, terrible time of it at third base, and his mistakes led to several Mets runs. In his defense, he’s never played 3B prior to this year, and his mishaps were mainly due to confusion / inexperience. However, I point it out to show how important execution is in today’s game — just like when I get on Daniel Murphy and other Mets who struggle with fundies. There just isn’t room for errors in 2014 the way there was 5-10 years ago — every play matters.

Funny hearing Gary Cohen say “Fitty Cent.”

Next Mets Game

Mets and Phillies do it again on Friday night at 7:05 PM. Rafael Montero faces A.J. Burnett.

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. Bat May 29, 2014 at 11:16 pm
    Gary Cohen in the 8th or 9th inning said something similar what I said on here a few days ago, which is that I can see the *possibility* of a formidable bullpen developing if Parnell comes back next year and is added to Mejia, Familia, Vic Black, and Edgin.

    There is nothing even close to resembling a guarantee in this group with Parnell having suffered a major injury; Mejia injury prone his entire career; and Familia, Black, and Edgin unproven and subject to bouts of wildness.

    But still…if you’re an optimist you can see the outline of something that could be a strong bullpen. If you’re a real optimist, you add this to a possibly strong rotation of Niese, Wheeler, Harvey, Montero, Synderbloock, Gee, and de Grom, and you start getting hopeful.

    If they could ever get anything close to a major league lineup on the team.

    You really can’t run Wright, Murphy, Lagares, and five below average hitters out there, no matter what kind of pitching you have. And like Janish and a commenter wrote yesterday, a lot of people have pitching and offense has declined so it’s not enough to put together a fairly strong staff with well below average hitting.

    But I am trying to be optimistic today.

  2. Kent May 29, 2014 at 11:43 pm
    Gary Cohen at least partly misquoted (or misinterpreted) what Dr. Andrews said. If you look at the statement:
    I interpreted it as Dr. Andrews suggested you should not try to throw as hard as you can on every pitches, especially not during long tossing and bullpen sessions, this (at least IMO, granted I’m not a doctor) is a pretty sound advice. He is also stressing the importance of resting, looking out for sign of fatigue, and honest on how a pitcher’s body felt, etc, which is what Joe has been preaching on this blog consistently.
  3. Kent May 29, 2014 at 11:49 pm
    Oh and in the year around baseball part, I think Dr. Andrews cautioned against it mainly because there are a lot of travel leagues fail to implement even the most basic protective measure for pitchers (like those pitch/inning limit in state-sanctioned high school league), and there is a study (which unfortunately I can’t provide a link) that shows young pitchers played in these travel/camp leagues are significantly more likely to get hurt than those that played only in state-sanctioned league.
  4. argonbunnies May 30, 2014 at 6:53 am
    I didn’t see Wheeler throw a single breaking ball that didn’t break (unlike his norm). He needs to figure out whatever he was doing today and bottle it. That stuff will play against anyone.

    Interesting that Zack had eight 3-ball counts but never walked anyone. It looked like he had the ability to throw quality strikes when necessary — I wonder what’d happen if he took the Halladay/Lee approach instead of nibbling? Could he pull off the 7-hit, 100-pitch complete game? Although tonight’s start was special in many ways, I have seen Wheeler do this before — make his best pitches when he has to. It makes me wonder if he could ever bring that same focus to the first 3 pitches of an AB.

  5. DaveSchneck May 30, 2014 at 8:39 am
    Regarding the Dr. Andrews statement, for my 2 cents, I think that just because something has yet to be proven scientifically in a controlled test environment doesn’t mean it should be dismissed. Some hypotheses are proven true over time. Again, not yet with scientific evidence, but it sure looks like many of these kids (see Strasburg, Harvey, Fernandez) are “overthrowing” due to being in the bigs and being uber competitive. Harvey delivered many sliders in the low 90s, which from a common sense point of view seems unsustainable. Given that prior to the jug gun, there clearly wasn’t as much focus on velocity, this theory can’t be dismissed. Second, regarding playing various sports, I agree with you that kids should chhose what they want, although that rarely happens. I think part of the point, which wasn’t explained clearly, is that different sports work different muscle groups, and somewhat rest the wear and tear on others. 100% baseball, or football, or basketball for tha tmatter, will be much harsher on those specific body parts that are stressed the most in those specific sports. I think any of us have experienced that, even amateur pretend athletes like me. Again, just another likely common sense issue. It only really matters for very few, because as Darling said, pro sports picks you, you don’t pick pro sports. Yeah, there may be one guy that “works his way” there, but for that one there are a million that fall short despite the efforts.

    Oh, and, that was wonderful pitching by the Mets last night. The battle for last in the NL East now has this flawed Met team 3 games from 1st. If Alderson could ever find a way to bring in a couple of position-player reinforcements, the vibe around this franchise could change very quickly.

  6. Dan B May 30, 2014 at 9:30 am
    The benefit of playing multiple sports rather then focusing on one is not that you develop physical skills but mental skills. What I mean is that in some sports you can be a star and a leader but in the next you are average and must learn to follow. Some sports teach you patience while other rewards aggressive play. Plus you tend to meet and interact with a more varied assortment of personalities. It might not make you a better baseball player but it will make you a better person.
    • Elijah Dukes May 30, 2014 at 1:04 pm
      I played every sport under the sun in High School, and it ain’t never made me a better person.
    • argonbunnies May 31, 2014 at 2:49 am
      I’d say that the kinds of body control you get from other sports are very useful for plays that come up very infrequently, like Joe’s example of basketball dunks and homerun robbery. Apparently Deion Sanders’ skills shaking defenders in football made him impossible to catch in rundowns. Stuff like that.

      Also, it wouldn’t surprise me if physical pursuits that emphasize flexibility and balance (yoga, tai chi, karate) were a nice complement to the kinds of training baseball players do. Certainly no martial artist would ever be falling awkwardly off the mound like K-Rod or Mitch Williams.