Archive: September 15th, 2009

Mets Game 145: Loss to Braves

Braves 6 Mets 0

The Mets couldn’t lose this game fast enough.

Tommy “Gun” Hanson handcuffed the Mets hitters through seven frames, allowing them only three hits and three walks en route to his tenth victory of the season.

Pat Misch accomplished a typical fifth-starter job — 4 runs allowed on 8 hits and a walk in 5 innings. Nothing spectacular, nothing terrible, either.

Braves first baseman Adam LaRoche was a one-man wrecking crew, going 4-for-4 with two homeruns, 4 runs scored, and 3 RBI. That “strong finisher” theory that moved Atlanta to acquire him from Boston continues to ring true.

Notes

The Mets were shut out for the 11th time this season.

Atlanta leadoff batter Nate McLouth was 2-for-5 with 3 RBI.

Hanson has one of the best overhand curveballs in baseball today. It has excellent, tight, 12-6 to 1-7 rotation, consistently drops it at the bottom of the strike zone, and throws it at two speeds — around 85 MPH and around 76 MPH. He mostly kept it toward the middle of the strike zone, with a “yellow hammer” vertical drop of 3-5 feet, and if he ever learns to spot it on the corners, he’ll be a regular no-hit threat.

I bumped my head after falling off the chair with laughter when Bobby Ojeda and tried to compare Bobby Parnell to Hanson. Forget mentioning them in the same sentence — Parnell doesn’t belong in the same PARAGRAPH as Hanson. I like Parnell, am rooting for him, but that’s like comparing apples to ribeye steaks.

The Mets had four hits on the night, two by Dan Murphy, who is making a case to be penciled in as the 2010 first baseman.

Braves did a nice job of picking up lefty reliever Eric O’Flaherty for nothing at the beginning of the season; he has a 3.14 ERA and 1.25 WHIP through 69 games. Kind of like how the Mets were smart to take Darren O’Day in the Rule 5 Draft (though, not smart enough to hang on to him).

Today’s Baseball Lesson

The first two pitches of the ninth inning resulted in outs. Dan Murphy and Jeff Francoeur should be ashamed of themselves — that’s selfish and unintelligent baseball. I don’t care if you’re down by six in a meaningless game — you still play the game right. For you youngsters, the “right” way to play the game is to TAKE A STRIKE when your team is losing by two or more in the late innings and there is no one on base. Why? Because you can’t hit a three-run homer with no one on. In the cases of Murphy and Francoeur, they couldn’t hit a 6-run homer to tie the game. Their best chance of winning was to try to build a rally, and walks are almost always a part of building rallies (often a big part). Let the other team make mistakes, make them execute and beat you — don’t make it easy for them. See more baseball playing and coaching tips at OnBaseball.com.

Next Mets Game

The Mets and Braves do it again at 7:00 PM on Wednesday night. Bobby Parnell faces Derek Lowe.

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How Bad is Mets Power Outage?

Quick, what do Miguel Olivo, Garret Jones, David Wright, Gary Sheffield, and Grady Sizemore all have in common?

All four players lead their respective teams in homeruns, but have hit less than 20.

power-outageHere’s where it gets scary — the season totals for these four:

Olivo (Royals), 19
Jones (Pirates), 19
Sizemore (Indian), 18
Wright and Sheffield (Mets), 10

Now, homeruns aren’t everything, but they do have a significant place in today’s game of watered-down pitching and emphasis on offense. And 20 is just a number — though most would agree it is something of a benchmark. A player who knocks at least 20 balls over the fence is generally considered to be a “power threat” — the type of hitter one needs to pitch carefully to in tight situations.

Yes, the injuries to Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran had something to do with the Mets not having a 20-HR hitter this year (though the pace of each suggested barely hitting 20 through 600 ABs). But Wright’s 15-day stint on the DL wasn’t the reason he is unlikely to reach that milestone. Further, the only other players on the Opening Day roster who had hit as many as 20 in a season were the 40-year-old Sheffield and Fernando Tatis (whose 34 in 1999 smell mysterious).

And before you point to vast expanse of Citi Field, consider that opponents have hit 75 homeruns in Flushing — or, a dozen more than visiting teams have hit in Coors Field. Chew on that one for a moment.

In fact, the Mets have hit 46 of their dingers in their home stadium, compared to 39 on the road. So Citi Field may have stolen a few fly balls, but that doesn’t explain the lack of power when visiting other parks.

Now consider this: there are currently 71 in MLB right now with at least 20 homeruns. In fact, 19 of them have 30 or more. Not one is a New York Met.

With a shade less than 20 games left in the season, there’s a very real possibility that the Mets finish the year as the only team in MLB without a 20-HR hitter. I’m not sure of the last time that has happened to an MLB team, but I know it hasn’t happened to the Mets since 2003, when Cliff Floyd and Jeromy Burnitz hit 18 apiece. You have to back another ten years, to 1993, to find a sub-20-HR guy lead the team (Bobby Bonilla, with 19, if you care).

Can a Major League team make it to the postseason in this day and age without at least one power threat? Some may argue a playoff-bound team requires at least three. Going into this offseason, the Mets are likely to let Delgado go, leaving Wright and Beltran as the only players under contract with the potential to hit 20 homers in a season — though they have an arbitration / non-tender decision to make with Jeff Francoeur, who has hit as many as 20 HR once in his five-year career. Assuming Francoeur returns, will those three “sluggers” be enough power to contend in 2010?

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Quick Preview: Mets vs. Braves

braves-57-logoThe Mets are in Atlanta for the next few days to play the Atlanta Braves.

Unfortunately for us, these games mean little, since the Mets have been mathematically eliminated from the postseason and the Braves are 6 games back in the Wild Card standings with 19 to play. Yes, the Braves still have a shot, but the margin isn’t slim enough at this juncture for me to think “ooh, the Mets can play the spoiler!”.

That said, I’m not sure how to look at this series against one of our “arch rivals”. Funny, isn’t it, that the Mets and Braves are playing against each other in a meaningless series in September? Who woulda thunk it back in March?

Game One: Pat Misch (1-2, 3.86 ERA) vs. Tommy Hanson (9-3, 2.83 ERA)

Misch will make another attempt at becoming the next Jamie Moyer, pitching against a lineup that enjoys seeing him on the mound — the Braves have 7 hits in 3 innings against him as a reliever, batting .583. He needs pinpoint control of his fastball and at least one of his offspeed pitches to succeed. Meanwhile, we get another look at the Tommy Gun, who has so far fulfilled the expectations preceding him as Atlanta’s top pitching prospect.

Game Two: Bobby Parnell (3-8, 5.49 ERA) vs. Derek Lowe (14-9, 4.47 ERA)

The experiment continues, but how can it help Parnell? I don’t see him making progress unless he makes a conscious effort to throw more change-ups and finds a spot in the strike zone he can hit consistently. His previous strategy of picking at the corners, then laying one over the middle, and mixing in an occasional hanging slider, is not one for success. If he’s going to get hit, I’d prefer to see him get hit experimenting with the change-up and spotting his best fastball consistently in a particular zone. He’s getting nowhere fast trying to hit spots all over the strike zone — choose one, hammer it until you can do it with your eyes closed, then try another.

While Derek Lowe is not having an outstanding year, he does have 14 wins and is 23 frames short of a 200-inning season. Parnell and Mike Pelfrey would do well to watch him work — they might learn something.

Game Three: Nelson Figueroa (2-5, 4.57 ERA) vs. Jair Jurrjens (11-10, 2.81 ERA)

Is it depressing to anyone else that the Braves will be sending two excellent young pitchers to the mound in three days — both with ERAs under three? The Braves have a pair of 23-year-olds already pitching at the level we’d hoped to see Mike Pelfrey (25 years old) and/or John Maine (28) — and add 24-year-old Bobby Parnell to that list as well. Jurrjens, by the way, has 186 IP, and looking at Lowe’s 177 and Javier Vazquez’s 197, the Braves may have THREE 200-inning starters when it’s all said and done. The Mets will have none. That’s part of the reason the Braves are still hanging on to postseason hopes in mid-September while the Mets are looking forward to golfing in the early fall.

Oh, back to the matchup. Nelson Figueroa needs to continue his workmanlike effort and mysterious voodoo to keep the Braves batters at bay and put another notch in his belt. At this point we know he will compete and usually won’t embarrass himself — but he needs a few more strong outings to earn a shot at a long relief / spot starter role in 2010. Keep plugging, Figgy!

Series Notes

So, the Braves weren’t so stupid when they said Adam LaRoche was a second-half hitter. He’s mashed 10 homers in 144 at-bats since returning to Atlanta, with a .333 AVG, .404 OBP, .590 SLG and 27 RBI in 39 games. Not too shabby for a late-season rental.

There’s an outside shot that the Braves join the Mets as the only teams in MLB to finish the season without a 20-HR hitter. Brian McCann leads the team with 18, followed by Chipper Jones’ 16 and Yunel Escobar’s 14. Did you know there are 41 NL hitters with 18+ homeruns?

Chipper Jones has a strained groin, and is questionable for all three games. Stay on the bench and rest, Larry.

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