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.
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The K Watch

Though it is surprising that Tom Glavine is not only leading the NL in ERA, but is also second in strikeouts with 41, there’s something even more surprising among the NL pitching leaders.

A few days ago I posted the fact that Jorge “Kulio” Julio was averaging close to 18 strikeouts per nine innings. Well, with his one-inning, three-K performance last night, he is now tied for 24th in the NL in strikeouts. That may not seem like a big deal, but consider this: he has just as many Ks as Dontrelle Willis, more than Brandon Webb, and is one strikeout behind Ben Sheets and Jake Peavy. And he’s done this in only 14 innings.

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Game 28: Win

Mets 6 Pirates 0

Vintage Glavine

Tom Glavine has evolved similarly to an aged fine wine; as an aficionado such as Steve Trachsel might tell you, a wine can go through a “dumb” or “funky” stage before reaching its finest flavors, in its peak years of drinking. Glavine may very well have gone through the “dumb stage” of his career from 2003 to the first half of 2005. However, it appears that he has evolved beyond that funky part and is now in his “second” prime. Not unlike his former teammate Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine has been performing at a vintage level.

As if Glavine’s remarkable lack of run support in his history with the Mets wasn’t challenging enough, Mr. Willie added a second wrench by sitting Carlos Delgado and giving Julio Franco a start at first base. But it didn’t matter, because not only did the Mets explode for six runs, Glavine only needed one. He would likely have pitched a complete-game shutout, but Mr. Willie had to of course follow his little book and take Tommy out after seven innings, as he was nearing 100 pitches. Duaner Sanchez threw yet another perfect inning of relief, and Jorge Julio finished the game by striking out the side in the ninth.

So far my prediction for Xavier Nady is not panning out; where I was sure he’d be hitting around .190 at this point, instead he is well over .300 and hitting a bomb every week. As I’m still a Victor Diaz fan, and my negativity toward Nady seems to be working as a reverse curse, I’ll continue to root against him.

Next up is a three-game series with the Braves. We have Steve Trachsel, Victor Zambrano, and possiby Jose Lima going against Kyle Davies, Tim Hudson, and Jorge Sosa. I think we should be overjoyed if we win one out of these three, and not worry too much if we get swept. However, this ugly back end of the rotation needs to be addressed, and I don’t mean by Jose Lima licking the stamp. At some point, Mr. Willie and Ultimo Minaya need to reconsider the stupidity of keeping a talent like Heilman out of the rotation — especially if Jorge Julio continues to progress.

Even if Julio does not gain the Mets’ confidence, I’d think we’re a stronger team with Heath Bell in the ‘pen and Heilman in the rotation, than with a situation of Trax/VZam/LimaTime starting 60% of the team’s games.

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Game 27: Win

Mets 4 Pirates 3

In a swamp-soaked game, Pedro Martinez pitched as though the game were meant to be played under a waterfall. For at least three innings, the conditions were so awful that it was difficult to watch the game on TV, as the rain was coming down hard enough to obscure the cameras. Yet through it all, Pedro smiled, slung, and swashbuckled through the Pirates batters, mowing them down like an overgrown lawn.

Despite pitching brilliantly through six, and throwing only 72 pitches, Pedro was lifted for pinch hitter Jose (ugh) Valentin, just after Endy Chavez doubled in Cliff Floyd for the go-ahead run. Why? We’re not sure. I’m going to guess that Mr. Willie was looking out for Pedro’s health; with the conditions the way they were, there had to be concern for Pedro accidentally slipping — with the Mets’ hopes for 2006 sliding with him. If the conditions were dry and warm, I have to believe that Pedro stays in to hit for himself, and quite possibly finishes the game.

As it was, Aaron Heilman came in and threw two perfect innings before yielding the 3-1 lead to Billy Wagner to close out the game. The minute Wagner came into the game, I knew it was a mistake, for several reasons. First, if you are going to take out Pedro for safety reasons, why would you risk Wagner, who may very well have as much value this year? Second, Heilman was dominating in his two-inning stint, and considering the conditions, it would seem that one would leave him out there, as he’d conquered the mud, the rain, the mound, and was ready to keep on plowing. Third, since Heilman had already thrown two innings, he was already a scratch for the next game, so why not leave him in for one more? Whether he pitches two or three innings makes no difference in regard to his availability on Friday. Finally, because of the wet conditions, it did not make sense to bring in a fresh pitcher, who would have to adjust to the game mound, when the current hurler was doing just fine. But Willie being Willie, and going by that godforsaken “book” he stole from Joe Torre, he had to bring in Billy to save the day.

As it turned out, Billy barely got his footing, and was throwing all over the place. I’m surprised he didn’t hurt himself, especially with his six and a half foot stride. By the time it was all over, it was a tie ballgame.

Thankfully, we have Carlos Delgado this year, and he took the game back in the 12th with an opposite-field bomb.

Note: Endy Minaya — er, Chavez — went 4-5 and could have easily gone 5-5 if the official scorer didn’t score his last time on base as an error (it could have gone either way). He also made an unbelievable diving catch that the post-Cameron Carlos Beltran was definitely not diving for. Though I still think he looks more like an American Legion player than a MLB player, he’s starting to grow on me. With his speed and hustle, and penchant for comign up with big hits, he looks like he’ll be a significant sub on this potentially playoff-bound team.

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K-ulio

Has anyone noticed that, for all of his horrific outings, Jorge Julio is averaging 18 STRIKEOUTS PER NINE INNINGS?

He may have meltdowns, give up gopher balls, and often look like a frightened deer in headlights, but the fact remains that this guy has some seriously scary stuff. I’m not sure that anyone has ever averaged 2 Ks per inning over the course of a full year, and I doubt he can keep this up, but the stat is a glaring statement about this guy’s potential.

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Game 26: Loss

Nationals 6 Mets 2

I’m not exactly sure when it started, though I think it was around four years ago: the Mets’ inability to hit rookie pitchers. Since at least 2003, Mets hitters have made any and every rookie hurler look like Sandy Koufax in his first start against the team. There has to be something to this. Maybe the Mets’ advance scouting team is providing poor information. Or maybe they are providing too much information, overhyping the pitchers and psyching out the hitters. Or maybe the Mets hitters paralyze themselves by spending too much time in the video room before the game, overanalyzing the youngster. Or perhaps the Mets’ batting coaches have not done a good job of getting the lineup, as a whole, to adjust their approach in-game.

Whatever the reason, it just doesn’t make sense. Many young pitchers, in their first appearance against a team, can get through the lineup once with good success, but by the second or third time around, the Major League hitters make adjustments and start banging away. The Mets seem to be completely opposite: the further a youngster goes in the game, the worse the Mets hitters do. It must be a mental thing.

Anyway, there were a few bright lights in this otherwise dark ballgame. John Maine showed he has some decent stuff, and may very well become a Major League pitcher after all. He definitely was affected by nerves, as he had trouble with his command—and control is his strength. His fastball is not overpowering, but he spots it well down in the zone and was not afraid to throw inside. In the SNY coverage of the game, Ron Darling commented that his changeup was 84 MPH and not enough of a decrease on his 90-91 fastball. Darling claims that a pitcher needs 10 MPH off to be effective. I disagree completely, and think Maine’s changeup is fine. In fact, it could be very effective, as not only is it a good speed, but it has good movement. Strangely, he did not throw his curveball until the fifth inning, and it looked pretty good. I hope to see him use it more often in his next outing — assuming there is a next outing.

Paul LoDuca was the only man in the lineup who performed like a Major League hitter, as he collected the Mets only hits (two) before Carlos Beltran belted a useless homerun in the bottom of the ninth. One of the hits was a solo homer. He also made a great pickoff throw in the top of the second, nailing Daryle Ward at 2B on a botched bunt attempt. He’s no Mike Piazza, but he’s proving to be a more all-around contributor, on offense, defense, handling pitchers, calling a game, and leading the team in various ways.

Jorge Julio looks to be making strides. He struck out two more in 1 2/3 innings, and showed good focus, if not confidence. Who knows, if he can continue to string together good outings, he might be a dominant force by July. I’d love to see him take Heilman’s spot in the ‘pen, and return Aaron to the rotation. Of course, it’s a silly dream.

On the other hand, Darren Oliver continues to be remarkably underwhelming. His sparkling sub-3.00 ERA is a smoke screen hiding his true inability to succeed at the Major League level, as he has yet to enter and exit a game without allowing a run. True enough, many of the runs were inherited runners, and not technically his responsibility, but then what is the point of bringing in a relief pitcher if he is going to allow runs to score? You may as well leave in the preceding pitcher. Oliver’s stuff looks a lot like BP, and I don’t see him providing anything other than garbage innings. To me, it would make more sense to release Oliver, move Zambrano or Trax to the bullpen to be mopup, bring up Heath Bell for important innings, and put either Maine or Heilman in the rotation to stay. Ah, there I go dreaming again.

Two games coming up with the Pittsburgh Pirates; the Mets need to continue dominating the crap teams and beat the Bucs senseless. It would make for a nice tuneup before facing the Braves.

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Game 25: Win

Mets 2 Nationals 1

Looking at the final score, who would have believed that Victor Zambrano was the starting pitcher, and went six innings in the victory?

As it turned out, he left the game with the score tied 1-1, and thus wasn’t credited with the win. However, it was a personal win for Dr. Jekyll.

The Mets’ Crisco squad was perfect again, as Pedro Feliciano, Duaner Sanchez, and Billy the Kid mowed down the last three innings. Mr. Willie made an interesting move, bringing in Wagner with the score still tied 1-1, after Sanchez pitched another lights-out inning and only threw ten pitches (eight for strikes). Personally, I would have left Sanchez in for the ninth, especially with 8-9-1 coming up for the Mets in the bottom of the inning. However, Willie went with Wagner, and we won … so I can’t be too critical.

An even more interesting managerial move was Frank Robinson’s leaving middle reliever Gary Majewski in the game after he gave up a walk to Julio Franco and an 0-2 single to Jose Reyes to start the ninth. Closer Chad Cordero was warming up and ready in the bullpen, and hadn’t pitched in a game since April 28th. Majewski proceeded to induce a perfect double-play grounder back through the box, but instead of taking his time, Majewski rushed the throw to second base, where both the shortstop and second baseman were covering, and the ball sailed over both their heads and into centerfield, allowing pinch runner Endy Chavez to score easily. Had Majewski thrown a strike to second base to start the DP, I wonder if third-base coach Manny Acta would have sent the speedy Chavez home while the Nats relayed the throw to first. Running full speed at the crack of the bat, Chavez just might have been able to beat the throw home.

As it was, it didn’t matter. Once again, the Mets did what they are supposed to do, which is beat up on the weaker teams. Hopefully they can do it by a larger margin in Game 26.

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Game 24: Loss

Braves 8 Mets 5

Oh well, so much for the sweep. At least we got two out of three.

Trax was godawful, doing his best imitation of Victor Zambrano, who was the scheduled starter. Perhaps the problem was that the persnickety Trachsel was supposed to pitch on Monday, following VZam. Or maybe the mound was too dusty. Or the balls were too warm.

Even with Trachsel’s awful outing — one in which he couldn’t get through the fourth inning — Los Metros Nuevos still had a good shot to win the game and sweep the Braves. They fought back to within three with a run in the sixth and a nearly devasting rally in the eighth, and threatened again in the ninth. One thing about the 2006 Mets: they don’t die easily.

In addition to the fight they showed in the last four innings of this loss, the Mets also had a few other positives: three walks by Jose Reyes, a return and homerun by Carlos Beltran, and a 2-for-5 game by Cliff Floyd.

I’ll take two out of three from the Braves for the rest of the year.

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Game 23: Win

Mets 1 Braves 0

In his years with the Mets, Tom Glavine has occasionally pitched below his capability, but mostly pitched at or near his capability. Unfortunately, he’s often been struck with awful luck and poor run support. It seems that sometimes he needs to throw a perfect game in order to win.

In game 23, he almost did. Glavine was nearly perfect, throwing seven shutout innings against his former team, yielding just four hits and a walk. If Tommy and Pedro continue to both pitch like aces, the Mets might be able to withstand Trachsel and Zambrano in the rotation.

With Glavine, Heilman, and Wagner pitching lights out, all the Mets needed was one run. They got it on a solo homer from Paul LoDuca, who is quickly establishing himself as one of the team leaders.

For the first time in over 25 years, the Mets have a chance to sweep the Braves with a win in Game 24.

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