Mets Game 69: Win Over Padres

Mets 3 Padres 1

Mets shut down superstar slugger Seth Smith to take the series from San Diego.

In all seriousness, the score shouldn’t have been this close.

Mets Game Notes

Daisuke Matsuzaka left the game after the initial inning with a stomach problem, Carlos Torres did a yeoman’s job with four frames of relief work, and the Mets bullpen held it up through the end against a Padres lineup that consisted of 8 batters with an OBP under .300.

Curtis Granderson led off the bottom of the first with a solo homer to put the Mets on the board right away, and a Bobby Abreu double drove in a tack-on run. Beyond that, though, the Mets offense was as it’s always been — ineffective, and failing to come through with RISP. Sure, it’s a win, but wow the Mets are finding new ways to fail in the clutch. They left the world on base yet again, and had several opportunities to break the game open in a big way.

TERRIBLE baserunning by the Padres in the top of the seventh — who were clearly packing it in at that point of the afternoon. If I were San Diego manager Bud Black, I would have been pulling guys out of the game and berating them in a closed-door meeting afterward. First, pinch-hitter Alexi Amarista hits a liner that is dropped by Wilmer Flores. Assuming Flores caught the ball cleanly, Amarista stops running a few steps out of the box. Had he continued running full-out, he might have been safe at first. There really was no excuse, especially since Amarista had been sitting in the dugout all day and couldn’t have been tired. Later in the inning, Yasmani Grandal — who also recently entered the game — peeled off and out of the baseline on what appeared to be a double-play grounder to Daniel Murphy. However, Flores muffed the flip from Murphy. Had Grandal merely stayed in the baseline and gone straight to second base, he very likely would have been safe, as it appeared that Flores never had control of the ball. Maybe the ruling still would’ve been “out,” but that’s not the point. The point is that Grandal should have been going straight for the bag and trying to break up the double play — not veering off and away. Why in the world would you give the shortstop a clear path to throw to first base? Why wouldn’t you do everything in your power to prevent him from completing the double play? Mind-boggling, and infuriating!

I realize that with Grandal replacing Rene Rivera, there was no other catcher on the bench, but if I were in Black’s position, I would have considered pulling Grandal right there and sticking the “emergency catcher” behind the plate for the final three innings. It would have sent a serious message to the entire team. But, I guess Bud Black has thrown in the towel — just as his players seem to have.

During the fifth inning, Ron Darling spoke at length about a pitcher “staying closed” in his motion. What Darling was saying is EXACTLY what I’ve heard from nearly every pro pitcher and pitching coach that I’ve ever spoken with (which numbers in the dozens, if not hundreds). In other words, what Darling was describing is more or less “accepted” guidance throughout baseball — so, what I’m about to write is NOT an indictment on Ron. In fact, nearly every time I comment on Darling’s comments, it’s not me “hating on Ron,” but rather, my way of expressing my exasperation for what has been accepted wisdom from “baseball” for decades. So it’s not about Ron, it’s about bad knowledge — Ron just happens to be the unfortunate conduit.

So, “staying closed” is probably the most overused, most misunderstood, and most dangerous bit of advice every pitching coach offers to pitchers. In nearly every case, it results in pitchers thinking about keeping their front shoulder closed, and/or over-rotating their upper body (and often, their lower body as well) during the leg lift portion of the pitching motion. To give illustration, picture the twisting and turning of Luis Tiant or Johnny Cueto as exaggerated examples. There is absolutely no reason, and no benefit, to turning the body away from home plate at that point in the motion. In fact, it almost always creates problems, because it puts your body out of line and off balance, requiring the body to make adjustments on the fly to get back on line and in balance. Just like you learned from high school science class — “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction” — the reaction to over-rotating, very often, is to open up the front side too early. Or, it can cause the front leg to land too closed (see: Jonathon Niese, Oliver Perez, many others), and/or to land the stride foot too open and pointed toward home plate (see: Vic Black, many others). These results put undue strain on the shoulder and/or elbow.

A BETTER way to describe “staying closed” would be “stay sideways,” because that’s really what should be happening. The knee lift should be more or less straight up, keeping the body balanced. From there, the goal is to “stay sideways,” or, keep the body at a right angle to home plate for as long as possible. It’s quite similar to good hitting mechanics (and many athletic movements throughout sports) — you want to prevent the hips from opening until that exact moment the bat comes around. In pitching, you want to keep the hips from exploding until the moment that the ball is about to move forward — then, the entire body will be in sync, and the lower half can assist with shoulder rotation (as well as deceleration).

Next Mets Game

The Mets move on to St. Louis to start a series with the Cardinals. They catch a break as they miss Adam Wainwright, who goes to the DL with elbow tendinitis. In Wainright’s place will be Carlos Martinez, who will face Jacob deGrom.

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 June 15, 2014 at 8:12 pm
    Mets took 2 of 3 from a team that appears to be even worse than they are.
  2. david June 15, 2014 at 9:33 pm
    A win is a win, so let’ all give thanks and say Amen.

    I am concerned D Wright has a health issue and is playing through it.

    I was wrong about Abreu, he can still hit but I also think it is folly to make him an every day player and bat him clean up. We have not had a proper clean up hitter, it seems, since Delgado. Time to make the “grand bargain” Sandy.