Mets Game 80: Loss To Pirates

Pirates 3 Mets 2

Mets drop their third straight, holding on to NL East cellar and remaining the third-worst NL team in June.

Mets Game Notes

Jacob deGrom hurled another stellar game, only to walk away with a no-decision. Fellow rookie Brandon Cumpton was equal to the task, and the two righthanders put up nearly exact stat lines. In the end, it was up to the bullpens and the managers to decide the ballgame.

Somehow, Jenrry Mejia found a way out of a massive jam in the bottom of the tenth, with no out and runners on second and third with Andrew McCutchen on double-deck and Neil Walker in the hole. The situation came about in part due to a rundown that went awry. It began with Josh Harrison at second base (after he singled and stole 2B with a fantastic slide). Gregory Polanco ripped a grounder right back to Mejia, and Harrison froze between second and third. Mejia chased Harrison back to second, and just went it looked like he’d tag him out, Mejia instead tossed the ball to Ruben Tejada, and a rundown ensued. After a few more throws that made me think “this looks like what would happen if Curly Neal of the Globetrotters was in a pickle against the Washington Generals,” Harrison wound up sliding safely into third base — with Polanco advancing to second.

There was outrage in the SNY booth, with Gary Cohen and Ron Darling pointing out that Harrison was out of the baseline at the very end of the rundown. However, the “baseline” is not necessarily a direct line between second and third, and in fact, can be dynamic — in effect, a moving target. Here’s the rule, from the MLB rulebook:

Any runner is out when —
(a) (1) He runs more than three feet away from his baseline to avoid being tagged unless his action is to avoid interference with a fielder fielding a batted ball. A runner’s baseline is established when the tag attempt occurs and is a straight line from the runner to the base he is attempting to reach safely; or (2) after touching first base, he leaves the baseline, obviously abandoning his effort to touch the next base;

Emphasis mine. The way it works is this: when a tag is being applied, then the runner is allowed 3 feet on either side of the direct line between the runner and the base they are going toward — and it’s a judgment call. It’s not cut-and-dried based on the ACTUAL baseline, because there is the issue of the runner avoiding interference, and that’s where things can get murky. When Tejada received the ball for the second time — when he was nearest to third base, on the final throw — Harrison may have looked like was positioned close to the infield grass, and it could have been interpreted as him running out of the way of the throw from Eric Campbell. I looked at the play several times, and with the help of slow motion and the pause button, it did look like it may have been the wrong call, but in the heat and speed of the moment, I definitely could see why the umpires made the call they did; Harrison falling down may have created an optical illusion. At full speed, it was plausible to believe that Harrison was out of the baseline BEFORE Tejada caught the ball and attempted to apply the tag — and Harrison’s allowed to do that, because it’s only when the runner runs out of the baseline to avoid a tag that the three-foot rule applies (think about when runners take wide turns around third on their way to home). At the point Harrison fell down, which happened a split-second after Tejada caught the ball, he was inches from the infield grass, and that’s where what I’ll call the “adjusted baseline” was established — which became that point and a direct line to third base. From THERE, he had three feet of leeway. Understand?

In the end, Mets fans shouldn’t have been ticked off at the umpires for a bad call; they should’ve been ticked at the Mets for yet again completely botching a very simple play. In fact, it was handed on a silver platter, and their inability to execute was inexcusable. It wasn’t the umpires who made them throw the ball three times looking like the Keystone Kops chasing a serpentining Harrison. #littlethings

Smart call by Clint Hurdle to call a pitch-out in the 10th with two outs, Daniel Murphy on first base, and Lucas Duda at bat, as Murphy was thrown out stealing to end the inning. #littlethings

Great job by Russell Martin to break up a potential double play in the fourth inning. Later, a two-out single by Jordy Mercer drove in the Bucs’ second run. #littlethings

Martin, by the way, reached base on an infield single — a single that should’ve been an out had deGrom covered first base on the liner to Lucas Duda. #littlethings

In the top of the fifth, Jacob deGrom failed an attempt to sacrifice runners with runners on first and second and none out (the bunt was short and immediately pounced on by Martin, who threw out the runner advancing to third easily). #littlethings

By the way, did you notice that Daniel Murphy dropped the relay throw from the outfield on the final hit of the game? Maybe there was no shot to throw out Harrison, but, just sayin’. That sort of thing, I’m fairly certain, doesn’t get counted in advanced statistics — if I’m wrong about that, let me know, but nowhere on Fangraphs nor Baseball-Reference have I ever seen anything about dropped relay throws. Again, just sayin’. #littlethings

Mets were 1-for-6 with RISP, but Pirates were 1-for-10 — for whatever it’s worth.

Jennry Mejia threw 34 pitches in his two-inning stint. That means he requires a minimum of one full day’s rest off the mound. Will he get it?

Are you concerned about David Wright leaving the team to get an MRI in New York for his injured shoulder? You better be. Remember, this is the guy who played much of 2011 with a broken back. If Wright is hurting so bad he pulls himself out of a game and out of a series, it has to be serious. Expect to see Wilmer Flores back very soon. Of course, Flores has been focusing on shortstop and second base, instead of third, where he’d played much of 2012. Or maybe we’ll see Zach Lutz or Josh Satin, who are both hitting over .290 in AAA. Or will the Mets move Daniel Murphy to 3B and Flores to 2B? Hmm … maybe not put anyone at 3B, and play four outfielders, since they have six on the roster.

Next Mets Game

Mets and Pirates play game three at 4:05 PM. Jonathon Niese takes the ball against Gerrit Cole.

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. meticated June 28, 2014 at 5:46 am
    Zachary Lutz is eating sashimi…In a hot tub with snow monkeys. ..and working a hot deal for his anime cartoon starring hiself. ..
  2. Walnutz15 June 28, 2014 at 7:49 am

    No word on whether or not the Mets sold him for $1, or if they received Tanaka (from Major League 2) in exchange.

    • Joe Janish June 28, 2014 at 10:45 am
      How did I miss this, and when did it happen?

      I actually feel better about myself not knowing. It’s bad enough I watch and document nearly every Mets game, so not knowing the whereabouts of Zach Lutz is somewhat comforting. Maybe I DO have a shred of a life! 🙂

      Seriously though, he was decently and playing regularly in AAA — at least, per the stats. Had to be recent, right?

      Oh by the way, the Mets also traded Joel Youngblood. I didn’t miss that one.

  3. Kent June 28, 2014 at 8:07 am
    Zach Lutz is in Japan now (taking over Kevin Youkillis in fact), so we won’t see him.

    Joe, I’m interested in knowing what’s your opinion on Wilmer Flores? Stats-wise it seems he is hitting at every minor level, do you think if given enough time he could hit at major level?

  4. Kent June 28, 2014 at 8:14 am
    From what I understand, relay throws are accounted in the UZR as part of three catogories, OF Arm runs (because it’s the outfielder who made the throw in the first place), Range Runs (an infielder with limited range might not gotten the ball), and Error runs (here are the dropped relays, overthrown balls to the bases, etc.) Of course I realized it didn’t expressively say so over at Fangraphs, so you can choose to not belive me.
    • Joe Janish June 28, 2014 at 10:46 am
      Thank you, I had no idea.

      Why wouldn’t I believe you?

  5. DaveSchneck June 28, 2014 at 8:53 am
    Excellent analysis on the rundown. Looked to me like Mejia could have just tagged him and held the batter at first. The Mets made so many errors and mistakes in this game that there are actually too many to list. I did notice Murphy’s error on the last play of the game and I do notice that they are deservingly 7 under .500 and in last place in the weakest division in baseball. Regarding DW we’ll see but it is no small detail that he hurt himself on a head first slide. I don’t see how any team would allow its players to slide head first. I think that play results in more injuries than any in baseball.
  6. Jon C June 28, 2014 at 9:55 am
    Joe, do you really believe what you wrote regarding the umps call in the rundown? I’ve never seen an ump give a player who dives into the grass the benefit of the doubt when it comes to getting out of the base path. I feel like you are trying a bit too hard to come down on the mets for the poor play in defending the umps here.

    Same for murph on the last play of the game, he likely “rushed” knowing that the only chance he had at throwing out the runner was to take the chance of speeding up his transfer/throw. Theres plenty to pick on about murph but not that play.

    That being said, to me the biggest culprit on the rundown was tejada. This conversation never happens if he continues to pursue harrison. He could have ran back to apply the tag or at least throw to third, but he just stopped and assumed the umps would make that call.

    Also major props to harrison for his hustle. He never quit on the play. Stark contrast to chris young getting picked off first earlier in the game and immediately giving himself up.

    Did the mets get out of the inning? some would say that this rundown play therefor didnt cause the mets to lose but i would disagree. Get those outs quicker and perhaps harrison never steps to the plate in the next inning to deliver the game winning hit.

    • Joe Janish June 28, 2014 at 11:06 am
      Yes, I really do believe in interpreting the rule book. I may not always agree with it, and it often befuddles me (like the caught stealing scoring in the first game of this series), but I do believe what’s written in there should be executed.

      Did you see the 2013 World Series? Watch Jacoby Ellsbury run in the grass and wind up safe.

      See here:

      The baseline is not static, it is dynamic. Most people don’t know that (including broadcast announcers and many MLB players), which is why I pointed it out. The reason we don’t see it happen more often is because MLBers are supposed to end rundowns with one throw or less, and usually do.

      I don’t need to go out of my way to be hard on the Mets. They do a good job of flubbing various things every day. It’s easy to pick one or two or three or four and use it as a teaching moment. And that’s part of what it’s about here, teaching the kids.

      • Jon C June 28, 2014 at 2:08 pm
        thanks for the link joe

        I guess my question is regarding the interpretation

        When I read the rules you cite, it seems to be me that the baseline is established when “the tag attempt” occurs. That seems to me like the “first” tag attempt establishes the line. It doesn’t seem to say that the baseline is reset each time a tag is attempted (this is what you mean by “dynamic” as i understand it?).

        If referring to multiple tag attempts, the rule should say when “a” tag attempt occurs.

        If you say its dynamic i guess i should take your word on it, but I wonder, who ultimately decides on how the rule book is interpreted?

        • Joe Janish June 29, 2014 at 1:05 pm
          The problem with that rundown was that the Mets fielders didn’t make any tag attempts until Harrison fell down. So, the baseline was established at that point.

          The umpires interpret the rule book.