Mets Game 79: Loss to Pirates
Pirates 5 Mets 2
Mets drop their second in a row and fall seven games below .500 as they’re pilfered by Pirates at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.
Mets Game Notes
Daisuke Matsuzaka was not so good, and was back to the pace that makes one want to walk outside and watch paint dry on growing grass. His dip in velocity was alarming, and I have to believe it had something to do with his refusal to allow his arm to recover between outings. It’s like not getting enough sleep night after night (my hand is raised) — after a while, you can’t expect to “catch up” by sleeping in until noon one Sunday. Denying your body proper recovery — be it sleep, cycling, swimming, weight lifting, or throwing a baseball — gradually builds up against you, until your body (and/or mind) fails. Dice-K insists on throwing off a mound every single day, and the Mets let him do it. Maybe he was able to get away with it as a teenager and in his 20s, but he’s now 33 years old, and guess what? The body changes, as does the ability to bounce back. Those of you at a similar age or older know exactly what I’m talking about. Remember when you could pull an all-nighter and still function at work the next day? Remember when you could booze it up until 3 AM on a Friday night and come right back to do it again by Saturday night? You probably can’t do it any more. Similarly, just because Dice-K (and other Japanese pitchers) were able to throw every day and be successful doing it, doesn’t necessarily mean they can continue to do it as they age. At least, not without some chemical “help.”
Another “small thing” that bit the Mets, and could have been bigger if the game wasn’t decided by three runs — a steal of home by Andrew McCutchen. Well, according to official scoring, McCutchen doesn’t get awarded a stolen base, which blows my mind. It’s a fielder’s choice? It’s ironic to me that Ike Davis can be given a caught stealing but McCutchen not get a steal on that play. If he didn’t “steal” that run, what did he do? Baffling.
Anyway, it was a perfectly executed play by the Bucs, and made a hundred times easier by the Mets’ playing a severe shift on Pedro Alvarez. With David Wright standing near second base, McCutchen was able to get a 30-foot lead, extended another 10 feet when the pickoff throw was made. Once Lucas Duda tossed the ball to Wright, McCutchen took off, and there was really no chance for Wright to put him out, even if he fired home immediately. McCutchen is pretty quick, and he had to only cover about 45-50 feet, which only takes about two and a half to three seconds at most (think about it — that’s 15 yards, and a fast guy like McCutchen can cover 40 yards in about 4.5 – 4.7 seconds). Once Duda let go of the ball, it would’ve taken at least two and half seconds for the ball to: 1) reach Wright; 2) Wright to make the perfect transfer and turn to home; 3) ball to travel to home; 4) Travis d’Arnaud to receive the perfect throw and apply the tag. There was some discussion that Wright may have made a mistake, but really, the mistake went back to the shift in the first place, and secondarily, to Duda for throwing to Wright and not even glancing at McCutchen, who was halfway down the line.
So how to defend against that play? First off, don’t shift with a man on third. Ever. It boggles my mind that we don’t see more straight steals of home when teams do that, because the runner can usually get a 50+ foot lead if he wants; Jackie Robinson would have a field day and steal home 10 to 20 times a year with today’s shifts. Second, the first baseman has to fire to home right away. Unfortunately, you’re giving the runner on first second base as a result, but it’s the lesser of two evils. The LAST thing you do there is increase the distance between the ball and home plate.
Leading off the top of the ninth against a new reliever (closer Mark Melancon), and down by three, Travis d’Arnaud swung at the first pitch he saw and flied out. Hmmm … Ron Darling explained it away with something to the effect that today’s players are aggressive and as a result, taking a pitch there is something that’s just not done. I don’t buy that. If anything, batters today are much more passive, and often take pitches for the sake of taking pitches. What it is, is, first of all, players not being taught proper fundamentals, and second, managers not putting on the “take” sign. Sure, you’d prefer that young players come up to the bigs polished and knowing what they’re supposed to do, but if that’s not the case, there are MANY things that a manager can do to both teach and control the situation. How the heck is Terry Collins NOT putting on the take sign, or at least, taking d’Arnaud aside prior to the inning starting and explaining why it makes sense to take a strike? This has nothing to do with today’s players being aggressive and everything to do with ignorance and mismanagement.
Gregory Polanco looks like the real deal. But, we’ll see. His toolset and quick ascension through the minors to the bigs is reminiscent to to that of Lastings Milledge, who wound up being a bust. Though, LMillz was a year younger when he became a MLBer, and, the two men likely have very different personalities. It takes more than raw talent to succeed in the Majors, and it will be interesting to see how Polanco adjusts when MLB pitchers adjust to him in a month or so. He does appear to be a special ballplayer.