Tag: braves

An Early Barometer

Who needs a pinkie, anyway?

I’m not going to say this is a big series for the Mets.

Starting tonight, our favorite team from Flushing goes to the Ted in Atlanta for a three game series.  This is not an important series. After all, it’s crazy to say a mid-April series is meaningful.  But it is a barometer – a way to get a feel for just who this Mets team is early in 2012.

They’ve started 6-3.  They’ve swept the Braves already in New York.  But now, the Braves are on a roll, having won five straight.  The Mets have played .500 ball in that time.  New York did take 2 out of 3 from the Phillies in Philadelphia, which is always a good thing.  But they faced a depleted lineup.  Was the starting pitching that good over the weekend, or was the Phillies’ lineup that bad, sans Chase Utley and Ryan Howard?

The Mets have David Wright back, and he raked all weekend against the Phils.  Yet another Met, Jason Bay, came down with jammedfingeritis, and missed Sunday’s game.  I think I can speak for all Mets fans when I say, “meh.”  Is he really that much of an improvement over Scott Hairston at this point?

Lucas Duda and Ike Davis showed improvement over the weekend, and while they are still not exactly white hot, production from the two young power hitters will be helpful against the Braves, and the rest of the league.  How will they, and the rest of the lineup fare the second time around against Tommy Hanson, Randall Delgado, and Jair Jurrjens?

It will be more interesting to see how Dillon Gee, R.A. Dickey, and Johan Santana perform against the Braves lineup, which has scored 31 runs during their winning streak.

It’s not at all like this series means anything right now.  But we’ve seen a Mets team, during the earliest of the early part of the season, that has enjoyed some tenuous success.  Facing a hot Braves team will tell us more about who the 2012 Mets are capable of becoming – a surprising come-out-of-nowhere group of world-shockers, or the dismal pile of mediocrity in blue and orange that everyone expected.

But then again, it’s early.


Blog Roundup: Optimism in Metsville

Following a rough offseason and uninspiring Pre-Season, the Mets are off to a surprising 4-0 start.  Too early to clear your October schedule?  Yes.  Too early to feel good about your favorite ballclub?  No.  With all the darkness that has shrouded this team for the past few year, it’s unusual to allow oneself to enjoy the team’s success.  Most fans are living in the moment, and savoring winning baseball, for however long it lasts.

Yo Blogs:

  • Bleacher Report wonders if the Mets can keep up their winning ways, and learns something about the team’s character.
  • Mets 360 examines Mike Pelfrey‘s gutsy start on Monday night.
  • Rant Sports mentions the Mets will try to go 5-0 for the first time since 1985.
  • Faith and Fear is reminded how much fun baseball can be.
  • Metstradamus thinks this is all some beautiful, waking dream.
  • Hot Foot remembers what it is like to believe (Right, Tug?)

Enjoy the ride while it lasts, and keep checking out Mets Today.


Notes: Mets vs. Braves

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.

LOOGY candidate Chuck James didn’t look all that great in his 2/3 of an inning. His line wasn’t helped by the fact that Ramon Ramirez resembled a batting practice machine.

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.

It would seem that Adam Loewen scored more points in this game than Mike Baxter in the battle for 25th man.

So, what caught your eye in this ballgame? Post your thoughts in the comments section.