Archive: June 22nd, 2009

Mets Game 68: Win Over Cardinals

Mets 6 Cardinals 4

Miracles DO happen.

Fresh off the news that yet another All-Star and “core” player — Carlos Beltran — was unavailable due to injury, the bedgraggled and beleaguered New York Mets pulled off the impossible, beating the St. Louis Cardinals in an official Major League Baseball game.

Tim Redding was spectacular — OK, maybe not spectacular, but so surprisingly effective it felt spectacular — in holding the Cards to a mere four runs over seven full innings of work to earn his first victory as a New York Met. Key to Redding’s performance was his handcuffing of Sir Albert Pujols, holding the Great One to a mere double and one measly run scored. If you can stymie Pujols, then the rest of the Redbird lineup is cake in comparison. Indeed, Redding allowed a total of five hits and one walk to the Cardinals, and struck out four.

Meanwhile, the supposedly shorthanded Mets offense exploded for 14 hits, 4 walks, and 6 runs, led by teacher’s pet Omir Santos and the previously contemptible Luis Castillo, who were perfect on the day, combining to go 7-for-7 with a walk, 3 runs scored, and 2 RBI. Five Mets drove in a run or more, and Danny Murphy electrified the crowd with one of those “over the fence” hits that fans in other cities refer to as a “home run”.

Supporting Redding’s winning performance was the bullpen, which held the St. Louis batsmen scoreless through the final three innings of play. Jon Switzer struck out one and allowed a hit in his 1/3 inning of work, Brian Stokes (yes he’s still on the roster) retired the only batter he faced, and Francisco Rodriguez cut up the Cards in the ninth for his 19th save of the season.

Notes

Alex Cora was 2-for-4 with a walk and 2 RBI from the leadoff spot, and David Wright had one single and two walks. In addition to the four-bagger, Murphy also singled and scored on a Ryan Church sacrifice fly in the first frame.

Jeremy Reed was 0-for-4 starting in centerfield in place of Beltran. Wouldn’t it just figure, the guy was a firestorm in spring training, hot as a griddle through April and May, and now that he finally has been forced into an opportunity to play, his bat is cold as ice. More bad luck for the Mets, and terrible luck for Reed. Expect to see Ryan Church and/or Fernando Martinez getting time in centerfield as a result.

In the fourth inning, Santos scored on a bomb to left-center by Luis Castillo. On the relay home, Brendan Ryan threw a perfect strike to catcher Yadier Molina, but the throw was a few feet short of Molina, who allowed the ball to skip through his legs. Ryan was charged with the error and SNY announcer Keith Hernandez spent considerable time criticizing Ryan for having his back to the plate as he received the relay throw from left fielder Rick Ankiel, going so far as to demonstrate from the broadcast booth the proper way to position oneself for accepting the throw from the outfield. However, Hernandez failed to notice, nor mention, the reason WHY Ryan had his back to the plate when he caught the ball — it was because the throw by Ankiel sailed to Ryan’s right side, and Ryan had to quickly re-position his feet and move his entire body to the right in order to catch the throw cleanly. Originally, Ryan was getting himself into the proper position (left shoulder pointed toward the target) but once the ball tailed the “wrong” way, he had no choice but to turn his back to home plate. What made Keith’s diatribe even more ridiculously pointless was the fact that Ryan made a nearly perfect throw. Despite being completely turned around, with his back to the plate, Ryan spun and let loose a fine throw that was perfectly on line, and only about 5-10 feet short of home plate. Watching the replay several times, it looked to me like Molina was at fault for not handling the short-hop — he allowed the ball to handcuff him by reaching out and stabbing for it instead of allowing it to come to him. And, in defense of both Ankiel and Ryan, the conditions were rainy and wet, and the ball was likely slick, making it very hard to get a good grip and probably the reason Ankiel’s throw was to Ryan’s right side instead of his left. For all you kids out there, yes, Mr. Hernandez did demonstrate the proper fundamental in receiving a relay throw — but understand that circumstances can sometimes force you out of the ideal position, in which case you have to “get creative”.

Next Mets Game

The Mets will attempt to again attain the impossible on Tuesday night when they host the Cardinals at Citi Field at 7:10 PM. Livan Hernandez faces Joel Pineiro.

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Carlos Beltran to the Disabled List

Just got word that Carlos Beltran’s MRI did not look good, and he’s headed to the DL.

Fernando Martinez reportedly is on the way back up to take his place on the roster.

In addition, Wilson Valdez has been DFA’d and Ken Takahashi demoted to AAA Buffalo. Taking their places will be lefthanded pitcher Pat Misch and and RHP Elmer Dessens.

Adding Misch and Dessens to the bullpen makes sense, since Dessens has been pitching well as a middle reliever in AAA (as loyal MT reader/commenter Micalpalyn has noted on several occasions), and Misch can’t be any worse than Takahashi as a LOOGY. Misch was used as a starter and reliever by the San Francisco Giants prior to being released by that club, and is one of those crafty lefties (meaning, don’t expect him to overpower anyone with a 95+ MPH heater) who relies on pinpoint control. Dessens is a longtime MLB veteran swingman who survives on guile and luck. Both arms are a welcome addition to the bullpen, whose main three men are about to pass out from overuse.

Now what about F-Mart? Does he become the Mets’ starting centerfielder? Or does he play RF while Ryan Church shifts to center? Church has played 114 MLB games in centerfield. Otherwise, it’s Jeremy Reed’s time to shine.

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What’s Wrong with Bobby Parnell

b-parnell-backHe looked lights out for the first two months of the season, and thrilled us with his triple-digit radar gun readings. But lately, Bobby Parnell has been ineffective — what’s wrong?

As is often the case, there is no one clear-cut answer. But I do have a multi-pronged theory.

Bullpen Routine

The most obvious issue is that Bobby Parnell has never been in the bullpen in the pros before, so he’s not used to the reliever’s routine — mentally nor physically. Since joining the Mets organization in 2005, Parnell has been a starting pitcher, throwing in a game once every five days (with a pitch count) and adhering to a strict program in between starts.

Now, he is expected to be ready every day, which is vastly different in regard to both physical and mental preparation. It’s not unlike going from being a marathon runner to a sprinter. Consider this: through the first 67 games of 2009, Parnell has appeared in 36 ballgames. Last year, while jumping from AA to AAA to the MLB, he appeared in 37 games ALL SEASON. In 2007, Parnell pitched in a total of 29 games, all as a starter. It’s safe to suggest that part of Parnell’s problem right now is being unaccustomed to the daily rigors of a big league relief pitcher.

Secondary Pitch

The next issue affecting Parnell’s performance is his lack of a legitimate secondary pitch. His slider has potential, but is inconsistent, cannot be thrown for a strike, and is 10-15 MPH slower than his fastball. The difference in speed is a problem because it gives batters time to realize what’s coming, and they can lay off of it. Further, batters can wait for a fastball and tee off on it, especially after Parnell misses with the slider once or twice in row. It’s pretty easy for a Major Leaguer to hit the ball hard if he knows what’s coming.

Location and Movement

When Bobby Parnell was developing as a starting pitcher, he relied on a sinking fastball thrown to specific locations in the strike zone. I don’t know for sure, but I’m going to guess he used a two-seam grip, which provides the sink and some lateral movement. Generally speaking, a two-seam fastball has more movement, but a little less velocity than a four-seam fastball. I’m going to make another guess, which is that Parnell is hitting the high-90s and 100 MPH using a four-seam grip, which usually offers much less lateral movement and no sink at all (it’s why infielders and outfielders use a four-seam grip — so their throws are accurate and “true” / go in a straight line toward the intended target).

I’m going to go one more step with my theory, and say that Parnell throws his two-seam / sinking fastball to a specific location, but rears back and throws his four-seamer in the general direction of home plate. As a result, the four-seamer has lots of velocity, but is staying too “true” and is too close to the center of the plate. Hitters may have a hard time getting their bat on a 98-100 MPH fastball even if it’s over the heart of the plate, but eventually, an MLBer will catch up to it — and they are. Add in the previous point about the batter knowing what’s coming, and it’s no surprise that Parnell is getting lit up lately.

The Solution

It’s difficult if not impossible to develop a consistent offspeed / breaking pitch at the MLB level — just ask Mike Pelfrey, who has been developing secondary pitches “on the job” for the past three years. So although one solution is for Parnell to “learn another pitch”, that’s easier said than done.

The second possibility is for Parnell to go back to using his two-seamer more often, to set up the triple-digit heater. But here’s the problem: one of the reasons Parnell was not progressing quickly enough as a starter was his inability to spot his fastball consistently. He is throwing the two-seamer/sinker on occasion here in the bigs, but it “runs” (moves laterally) a bit too much, veering out of the strike zone. Additionally, it’s “only” about 91-93 MPH, so if it doesn’t sink or run, it’s really easy to hit.

Bottom line is this: Bobby Parnell is, right now, a AA starter who needs more time to develop command of his fastball and an offspeed pitch. But, because the Mets were so excited at his velocity, they rushed him to the big league bullpen. After a bit of success, there are now much bigger expectations of him as a future setup man and possibly a closer.

One may wonder why the Mets were so eager to put Parnell’s electric arm in the bullpen, when they already had Brian Stokes. Stokes also throws a straight 96-97 MPH fastball, but he can mix in three secondary pitches (they’re mediocre at best, but they’re better than what Parnell has in his limited repertoire). Could it be part of the organization’s initiative to prove everyone wrong who criticized their farm system? Did they throw Parnell into the fire before he was ready simply to prove their player development is better than what the scouting reports state? A similar move to anointing Dan Murphy the everyday left fielder on the second day of spring training? We can only wonder.

Whatever the case, the point is, the Bobby Parnell experiment should be put on hold. The kid needs to go down to AAA or AA and hone his craft. When he develops either better location of his fastballs, or a legit secondary pitch, he’ll undoubtedly be a lights-out reliever again, with a bright future. Otherwise, expect more of what you’ve seen the past two weeks, while Parnell learns on the job.

(Hat tip to loyal MetsToday reader “sincekindergarten” who wrote an email to me inspiring this post)

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No Rest for Pedro Feliciano

pedro-felicianoAccording to the data gathered in the Bullpen Blueprint, a total of 24 pitchers on pennant-contending teams pitched on zero rest (back to back days) 17 times or more last year.

The pitcher who threw on back-to-back days most often in 2008 was Pedro Feliciano — he did it 34 times.

The next-most appearances on zero rest were J.C. Romero (32 times), Dennys Reyes (28), Carlos Marmol (27), Aaron Heilman (26 times), Joe Smith (25), and Joe Beimel (25).

Through the first 67 games of 2009, Pedro Feliciano has pitched in 40 games, with no rest 17 times. Further, Feliciano has appeared in ballgames for the last six days. Days, not games.

Mets manager Jerry Manuel stated that as as long as Feliciano pitches to only one batter, he can pitch as many days in a row as he wants. Two things wrong with that statement. First, we have no idea what that theory is based on, nor what it means. Second, in the last six days, Feliciano has pitched to more than one batter four times. In fact, he threw to 2 batters in 6/16, 4 batters on 6/17, 2 batters on 6/18, and 4 batters last night. His total pitch count is 63 over the six-day period. I don’t know what that means because Feliciano has never thrown six days in a row before, and I’m having a hard time finding another pitcher who has accomplished the feat. That said, we can’t guess at the long-term effect of this frequency of use.

For more questions unanswered, download and read The Bullpen Blueprint (it’s free).

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