Archive: September 24th, 2010

Mets Game 153: Loss to Phillies

Phillies 3 Mets 2

So I blinked, and missed the game.

The Phillies disposed of the Mets in short order, cruising to their 93rd win of the season in a mere 2 hours, 10 minutes. That’s pretty impressive, considering:

– a knuckleballer pitched 6 innings for the Mets
– there were 5 pitching changes in the ballgame
– only two double plays were turned
– the game was played in the 21st century

Game Notes

R.A. Dickey was pretty good, but not good enough to beat the Phillies. He knuckled down for 6 innings, allowing 3 runs (2 earned) on 8 hits and 2 walks. He also ripped a double.

Unfortunately for Dickey, Joe Blanton was a touch better — allowing only 2 runs on 6 hits and a walk in 7 frames, expending just 74 pitches.

Ike Davis went 3-for-4 with a double and a run scored. Angel Pagan hit his 11th homer to drive himself and Davis in. And that was the scoring for the Mets, folks.

Davis’ double looked like it might be a game-tying homer in the top of the ninth, but it bounced off the middle of the left-field wall. He was stranded on third base when Jesus Feliciano struck out to end the game.

The bottom of the fifth ended with a double play turned on the Phillies on a Wright-Tejada-Davis relay. Chase Utley went in aggressively and upended Tejada on the play. It was an absolutely clean play, but it was a hard-nosed slide that you don’t see very often in these days of the pretty-boy sissy buddies. You DO see it often from Utley and others on the Phils. Now understand: the Phillies are more or less guaranteed to be in the postseason, and therefore this game means relatively nothing. Yet Utley still went in hard. Only minutes later in the top of the sixth, Jayson Werth went full-force into the right-field wall in an attempt to catch a fly ball, and Raul Ibanez ended the inning with a sliding catch in left field. It is late September, the Phillies may clinch before the weekend is over, and yet they are playing like it is the 7th game of the World Series. An inning after that, Joe Blanton fell flat on his face scrambling to field a drag bunt and retire Angel Pagan. That kind of display makes one consider buying a Phillies cap.

That’s not to say the Mets don’t hustle as well. There are a number of players — particularly some of the younger ones who are trying to make an impression — who play hard most if not all the time. But for whatever reason, playing hard and aggressively all the time — LOOKING like a team that will do whatever they need to do to win — has not been something one would identify with the Mets. They show up, most of them usually play hard, and sometimes, if the score seems out of reach, they look like they’ve given up. That’s what their overall body language shows, to me, anyway — and it’s something that’s been apparent since 2007, even when they won more games than they lost.

Speaking of the Phillies and their current record, their “magic number” is 2. In other words, a combination of Phillies wins and Braves losses that equal 2 will result in the Phillies clinching the NL East. For example, if the Phillies beat the Mets on Saturday and the Braves lose to the Nationals. So there’s a very good chance that the Mets will be party to a Phillies celebration this weekend. Oh joy.

This was the Phillies’ 11th consecutive win.

The Mets are now five games under .500 and have a firm hold on fourth place.

Next Mets Game

The Mets and Phillies play again on Saturday night at 7:05 PM. Dillon Gee faces Kyle Kendrick.


What Happened To the Pitching Philosophy?

Last night I watched the Mets 1967 Yearbook (god love the DVR). They showed clips of Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan, and Jon Matlack, among others. Something I kept seeing, over and over, with every pitcher in a Mets uniform, was this:

– a step back behind the rubber that started momentum going forward

– legs driving the delivery

– momentum continuing forward, evidenced by a follow-through that had the pitcher completely square to and facing home plate

These were very basic fundamentals of pitching for at least 50 years (try to locate a book by Bob Shaw
, which is out of print but may be in your local library) and it appears they were taught by the Mets organization in the 1960s. I say this because I lied before — the one pitcher whose delivery didn’t exhibit all three of those elements above was Jon Matlack.

The footage was of Matlack’s very first season as a pro, when he was fresh out of high school at age 17 and he had some side-to-side momentum driven by his hands and arms that led to premature opening of the front side. Additionally, he didn’t fully use his 6’3″ frame to his advantage in terms of the gift of gravity — he stayed somewhat upright. In other words, his mechanics were slightly flawed. But by the time he reached the big leagues in 1971, his delivery had been adjusted so that it resembled that of Jerry Koosman, Tom Seaver, Tug McGraw, and others. For example, his stride was lengthened, he had some “drop and drive”, he lined up his nose to his toes at release, and had momentum driving more forward than sideways. There were still some minor flaws in his motion, but for the most part, after 4+ years in the Mets minor league system, Matlack’s delivery was more efficient and in line with those crazy “laws” that the British guy Newton set 400 years ago.

Somewhere along the line, the Mets stopped teaching those essential fundamentals and in turn, stopped manufacturing pitchers. It may have happened briefly in the 1970s, but the system had a strong run in the 1980s when Nelson Doubleday was a quiet owner who let Frank Cashen run the show. It seems that the “voice of reason” that was behind the Mets’ pitching philosophy was silenced for good at some point in the 1990s. Why? I’m not sure. Maybe it was the retirement or removal of one of the “old-school” guys — Al Jackson is still around, but perhaps no one pays attention to him any more? It’s strange, and it’s a shame.

There is an ironic quote by Matlack from 1978 cited on a blog post published around this time last year by my friend John Strubel. The quote is from a conversation between Matlack and Seaver, which occurred after both were traded away from the Mets:

“I completely can not understand it,” said Matlack. “There’s no way I can fathom how, when I was in the minor leagues, they had the best system, the best talent. When I came to the major leagues, we had the nucleus of a dynasty, with our pitching and defense, we went from the best baseball city in the country to an absolute joke.”

Jon Matlack gets low and drives forward vs. Reggie Jackson