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.

Next Mets Game

Mets and Pirates do it again on Friday night at 7:05 PM. Jacob deGrom faces Brandon Cumpton.

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. Kent June 27, 2014 at 6:21 am
    McCutchen didn’t get the steal because Ike Davis was thrown out. MLB rule 10.07(d) specifically said when a double or triple steal has been attempted and one was thrown out, then nobody gets a steal. This is not like scoring of error where scorer need to define “ordinary effort”, it’s pretty black and white on scoring of stolen bases. It might sound dumb, but that’s what the rules says
    • Joe Janish June 27, 2014 at 12:34 pm
      Yes, thank you, I was aware of the rule book, and it never did make sense to me. I understand if it’s a double-steal of second and third, but it’s ridiculous on a first and third double-steal, because you’re essentially penalizing two players for creating a run, and rewarding the defense for screwing up.
  2. david June 27, 2014 at 7:32 am
    Nice call on the rule book. Didn’t see the game, but looks like another false dawn for Mets with recent mini-streak followed yet again by a couple of losses.

    Campbell now our backup SS? Give marks to someone for creativity.

    Buyers or sellers? You’ve got to be kidding.

    And yes, I feel bad for C Young. 3 HRs in 2 days, and that earns you a seat on the bench. How’s a guy supposed to play himself out of town that way?

  3. DaveSchneck June 27, 2014 at 12:32 pm
    I couldn’t agree more about these shifts with a guy on 3rd. Our minds are boggled on many occasions by MLB, and hey, what they hell do we know working non-baseball day jobs? It just strikes me that a simple geometry calculation – drawing a triangle from the pticher to where the 3B is on the shift and then to the spot where the lead should be – that should result in Bartolo Colon being able to steal home easily, like in little league on a throw back to the mound. I get the shifts in some situations, but they are drastically overused, and a good manager would find a way to exploit if offensive and avoid exploitation defensively.
    • Joe Janish June 27, 2014 at 12:36 pm
      A good manager like Clint Hurdle?

      It’s too bad he wasn’t available when they hired Terry Collins.

      Oh, wait ……….

  4. CleonJames June 27, 2014 at 2:18 pm
    Mets Met-iocrity never better illustrated than playing games without a backup shortstop. Or second baseman. I thought I was hallucinating. 6 OFs are good because that way Neuiwenheis will stew on the bench until he is a fried prune danish, and the other OFs will begin to hate each other jockeying for playing time. Can’t wait until Campbell makes an error at SS in extra innings to lose a ballgame. All of this just hastens the day when Collins is fired and another stooge is hired to take his place.
  5. CleonJames June 27, 2014 at 2:19 pm
    Not Collins choice mind you, but he will take the fall.
  6. DanB June 27, 2014 at 3:14 pm
    I don’t understand people criticizing the Mets for not having a backup shortstop. I think Tejada is a decent backup shortstop. What they don’t have is a starting shortstop. Reyes left in December of 2011 and the fans are still waiting. Tejada had one good 82 game run in early 2012. He has never excelled since nor did he ever show anything in the minors. So when people defend Alderson by saying there were no good shortstops available this past offseason, I question why didn’t the Mets get one in the 2011/12 or 2012/13 offseasons? Or at least another decent backup shortstop?
  7. Bat June 27, 2014 at 3:38 pm
    I read the Mets talked to both Clint Hurdle and Jim Leyland and neither were interested in going beyond the exploratory stage.

    So I don’t think you can hire anyone who doesn’t want to be hired although I note that if people don’t want to work for you – but do want to work for other teams – you might want to think about why that is.

    • Joe Janish June 27, 2014 at 10:43 pm
      Exploratory? Hurdle made it through the first round of interviews, was invited back for a second, publicly expressed his interest in managing the Mets, and in the meantime found out the interview process was a sham and took the Bucs job instead.

      It was a set up from the get-go. Sandy Koufax told Fred Wilpon to hire Collins, Paul DePodesta had a history with TC, and that was that.

  8. Walnutz15 June 27, 2014 at 6:29 pm
    And just like that, Wright’s headed for a MRI on his shoulder.
  9. Bat June 28, 2014 at 8:43 am
    That isn’t what I read – difficult to say which version is correct.

    Wouldn’t surprise me if your version was right, though.