Archive: June 2nd, 2009

Mets Game 51: Loss to Pirates

Pirates 3 Mets 1

For the second time in three days, the Mets engaged in a pitchers’ duel, but unlike Sunday’s win over the Marlins, were on the short end of the sword.

Johan Santana pitched poorly for Santana, but good for a mere mortal, and unfortunately not good enough for a win. He scattered seven hits through six innings, allowing three runs. I believe that qualifies as a “quality start”. Quality starts, though, don’t guarantee wins.

Pittsburgh pitcher Zach Duke was just a little better, holding the Mets to one run on eight hits and a walk. The only run allowed came on a sacrifice fly by Luis Castillo that scored Ramon Martinez.

Buccos catcher Jason Jaramillo blasted his first MLB homerun off Santana in the fifth, a “no doubter” deep into the left field stands. The Pirates’ went ahead in the sixth inning, when Freddy Sanchez led off with a single, advanced to second on a wild pitch, and scored on a Nate McLouth double. Moments later Adam LaRoche hit another double to score McLouth with the insurance run.

The Mets staged a two-out rally in the top of the seventh but Duke extinguished it without damage.


Martinez dislocated his pinky while scoring the Mets’ only run. He beat the throw easily but seemed to be caught between sliding and staying up. For those who have never played baseball before, he should have received direction from the on-deck hitter (Fernando Martinez) as to whether he needed to slide or run in standing up.This is a basic fundamental which is taught to American and Japanese children during little league. It is absolutely implausible and embarrassing that the Mets, an organization competing at the highest level of the game in the world, did not instill such a basic fundamental during F-Mart’s 3+ years in their system. I learned it as a 10-year-old in a league that played a 15-game season. *** EDITED — see isuzudude’s correction in comments *** Shame on the Mets, who by the day become exposed as a Mickey Mouse operation. (I won’t edit the final comment, because the Mets do belong in Disneyworld, for a hundred other reasons.)

While we’re on the subject of plays at the plate, Jeremy Reed was thrown out by several feet in the third inning after a Castillo single. Watching the replay, third-base coach Razor Shines was giving Reed the green light by circling his left arm as Reed approached third base. However, as Reed was rounding third (with his head down, something you do as a runner to make sure you touch the bag), Shines put up a stop sign with that same left arm, which Reed ran right through. Keith Hernandez commented that Reed “had plenty of time to stop”. I disagree.

A third base coach has to decide whether or not to send the runner BEFORE the runner hits the 3B bag. If he’s going to wait longer, then the coach has to position himself further down the third-base line, toward home plate, at an angle where both he can see the ball being handled by the outfielder and the runner can see him clearly as he rounds the bag. If Shines were in the proper position, then he can put up the stop sign “late”. But, Shines was at the edge of the 3B coaching box, and not in a good position to put up a late stop sign. What compounded the issue was that he used his same left hand to give the “stop” sign, which could have been construed as a continuance of the “go” sign. When as a coach you want the runner to put the brakes on, you put BOTH hands up, high over your head, using forceful, obvious body language. Again, fundamentals.

Brandon Moss reminds me of Ryan Klesko. Zach Duke reminds me of Tom Glavine. But the Pirates do not remind me of the Braves of the 1990s.

Losing to the Pirates twice in a row doesn’t concern me, since half the team is on the disabled list or in the infirmary with flu symptoms. The shame is that the Mets aren’t able to take advantage of playing a poor team by beating up on them.

Danny Murphy had a pinch-hit single in the seventh off Duke, a lefthander. Murphy is now hitting .423 in his career as a pinch-hitter, and I truly believe he may be able to carve a career serving in such a role — particularly since he is unfazed by the lefty-lefty matchup. Kind of like Gates Brown, Manny Mota, or Lenny Harris. Obviously there’s something about his approach that makes him so effective as a pinch-hitter, and a man can make a long and financially fruitful career exploiting such a talent.

Keith Hernandez suggested that Santana might be tipping pitches, as evidenced by the Bucs looking very comfortable swinging the bat in that fateful sixth frame. There may be something to that theory.

Santana was removed after 85 pitches. Probably a good thing, since he threw 120 in his last start (and 118 in the start before) and the Mets offense wasn’t doing anything anyway.

Why was Ramon Martinez starting at shortstop after Wilson Valdez hit like Barry Larkin on Sunday afternoon? The explanation was that Jerry Manuel wanted to get a look at Martinez before making a personnel decision. Are you kidding me? Believe me, I’m not on the bandwagon for Valdez, but it’s plain as day that he is head and shoulders above Martinez in every aspect of the game (which isn’t necessarily saying much). He has a stronger arm, better range, better speed, and a slightly stronger bat. He had me at hello. To give a guy a start as a tryout is unacceptable at this point in the season — the games are too important, and the lineup is already devoid of legit MLB talent.

Next Mets Game

The Mets attempt to avert a series loss on Wednesday evening by sending Mike Pelfrey to the mound against former Yankee Ross Ohlendorf. Game time is 7:05 PM.


What’s Wrong with JJ Putz


What is wrong with J.J. Putz? Unfortunately, it isn’t a simple answer. Let’s review some of the issues, one by one.


We know that J.J. Putz had an elbow injury last year, and we know that he has developed a bone spur on his elbow. We know he was given a cortisone shot to alleviate the inflammation caused by the spur, but we have no idea how / whether the bone spur is affecting Putz’s performance.

Typically, an elbow injury will cause pain, but not necessarily affect velocity. Often, elbow pain will result in control issues, as the pitcher will slightly alter his throwing mechanics, pitch grips, and/or release — note that these alterations could be intentional or unintentional.

For example, it’s possible Putz is using a different type of finger pressure at the point of release, due to the pain (again, intentionally or unintentionally). Or maybe he’s moved his thumb a little more beneath the ball on his fastball and/or splitfinger. Maybe he’s pronating his hand and wrist a little more than usual through the release. Point is, there are any of a number of possibilities regarding arm angle, grip, and release that, if changed in the slightest, will cause a noticeable effect on the flight of the baseball. Hence, the ball goes to locations other than what the pitcher intends.


Putz has publicly stated that he does not have the same excitement pitching in the setup role:

“I’m still trying to get used to pitching in this eighth inning and trying to find some adrenaline because it’s not like pitching in the ninth, I’ll tell you that,” Putz said. “You just really don’t have that heart-pounding sensation. I was talking with a couple of the guys. I think that’s where those two or three miles an hour are, that adrenaline.”

There’s at least some credence to such a claim, though you don’t want to hear it from a professional athlete collecting $5M in salary.

Tipping Pitches

Putz engaged in a special bullpen session around 3pm on Monday afternoon to adjust his pitching mechanics. There has not been any official report (yet) as to what he was working on, but I’m guessing it had something to do with Putz tipping pitches (doing something that allowed opposing hitters to know what pitch was coming). I had noticed something a few weeks ago but chose not to report it — maybe I have a big head but who knows who might be reading this blog, and I’m not going to be responsible for letting all of MLB know of such an issue.

If indeed Putz was tipping pitches, it would explain why he was having problems getting outs over the past few weeks.

Tipping Pitches – Part Two

Whatever it was he was working on, the point is that Putz has made a conscious change to his motion, and he did apply it in the game last night, which means he’s thinking about it. When an athlete thinks about his movements in performing a task, he cannot move as naturally and quickly. It’s not unlike any other motor skill, such as typing. If you are thinking about where your fingers are, you can’t type as quickly as when you’re not. This is why batters on a hot streak are often termed “in a zone” — they are not thinking about anything, everything is just flowing naturally. Pitchers may focus on checkpoints in their motion and still have a fluid motion, because they are the same checkpoints all the time, to the point they barely think about it (i.e., keep the front shoulder closed, stay on top of the ball, snap the wrist, etc.). It appears to me that Putz has added something to think about that he hasn’t thought about before (his hands). It will take some time before he can process that thought as naturally as any other, to the point where his mechanics are again fluid. But while he’s thinking, he’s slowing down his body, which affects …


Putz’s velocity is down this season, in comparison to 2008 and previous years. It could be due to the elbow problem, the lack of adrenaline, the new adjustment to his mechanics, overuse, age, or a combination of these issues. In any case, Putz’s peak speed is around 94 MPH, and working velocity around 92-93 or slower. He used to top out at 97-98 MPH, and work at around 95-96. That’s a MAJOR difference in speed, particularly at the MLB level, where most pitchers are working around 90-93. Putz is not a guy who paints the corners of the plate, he’s someone who rears back and throws, aiming somewhere around the middle of the plate. His sheer velocity and natural movement on his fastball is enough to blow away hitters when he’s in the mid- to upper-90s, but it’s pedestrian at lower speeds. The pitches he left in the middle of the plate on Monday night might have either zipped by the Bucs hitters, and/or had more movement down and in on their hands if the ball had 4-5 more MPH of velocity.

Bottom Line

Putz may pitch well in his next appearance, but it won’t mean he’ll pitch well for the rest of the season. At the same time, he may not pitch well in his next game, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s a lost cause. Depending on which of the above are the true issues, it will take some time for him to “get back” to being the guy the Mets traded for last December. Above all, he must be used more sparingly — his frequency of use should be more similar to that of a closer, as he is used to and shown effectiveness under that kind of workload.