Jonathon Niese had good results, though I didn’t love the process. He continues to use a side-to-side motion that results in pitches that have little sinking action — his fastball and cutter remain on one plane. On his curve, he pulls himself a little more upright — closer to where he should be — but in doing so he’s telegraphing the pitch. We’ve covered this many times here over the past two years, and it appears that this is a non-issue for Niese and the Mets. Too bad, because Niese’s fastball would be much tougher to hit, and he’d throw a more consistent, biting curveball if he’d stay more upright and throw on a downward plane. He’d also use more momentum and gravity to power his pitches, which means he’d throw with more velocity with less physical effort.
I know, I sound negative. In truth, the way Niese is pitching he’ll be just fine and likely just as good as he was last year. However I don’t see him improving significantly with his current motion, and for me it’s frustrating to see a young pitcher who has the potential to be better, but is holding himself back by not making minor, easy adjustments.
At least once, Niese dropped down and threw an ugly sidearm curve. It reminded me of Oliver Perez. Please, Jon, never again, OK? We really don’t want to be conjuring memories of Ollie while you’re on the mound, do we?
In contrast, the Braves’ Kris Medlen had an encouraging outing after missing part of 2010 and most of 2011 due to Tommy John surgery. He displayed three plus pitches — a sinking fastball, tough 12-6 curve, and a change-up that had good downward movement. His fastball command was a bit spotty and mostly around 90-91, but that deuce is devastating as an “out pitch”, and the change — though used sparingly — looks like it could really tie hitters in knots.
If you aren’t aware, James had major surgery in 2008 to repair his rotator cuff and a severely torn labrum. Interestingly, his arm motion resembles Johan Santana‘s, as he leads with his elbow, doesn’t get much external shoulder rotation, and releases from an abnormally high overhand position. It sort of looks like he’s throwing darts.
Ramirez was disappointing, as every pitch he threw was chest high or higher, with little movement, and below-average velocity. The radar gun was clocking him at 84-88 MPH in his first one-third of an inning, in the top of the 8th. Maybe it was just a bad day, or maybe he wasn’t properly warmed up. Or maybe he’s still getting in shape. According to FanGraphs, last year his fastball averaged 91.5 MPH. Strangely enough, his change-up averaged the same speed as his slider — 87. Generally speaking, a 4 MPH reduction in velocity is not nearly enough for a change-up to be effective.
Ronny Cedeno started a nifty-looking double-play in the top of the ninth, backhanding a grounder and flipping it from his glove to Omar Quintanilla in one smooth motion. I can watch plays like that all day long — I’m a sucker for silky middle-infield defense.
Braves outfielder Luis Durango is pretty fast on his feet, evidenced by a drag bunt against Danny Herrera in the top of the 9th. Seeing the 5’5″ Herrera and 5’7″ Durango in the same camera shot made the game — for a brief moment — appear to be the Little League World Series.
So, what caught your eye in this ballgame? Post your thoughts in the comments section.