Tag: henry blanco

2010 Analysis: Henry Blanco

When Henry Blanco was signed in early December of 2009, it was the biggest signing of the offseason to that point. I made some fun of the signing, since it seemed silly to sign a backup catcher before a starting catcher – particularly since the Mets seemed intent on either keeping Topps Rookie Omir Santos as a backup and/or slowly transitioning Josh Thole into the starting spot. Though, picking up Blanco is the type of “veteran depth” pickup that a pennant-contending club makes, and at that point, Omar Minaya believed the Mets would be pennant contenders.

As it turned out, Blanco exceeded expectations with the bat – in the first half, anyway. He hit a surprising .370 in May, popping some dramatic late-inning extra-base hits during the season’s first few months. By the end of the year, however, “regression to the mean” got the best of Blanco, as he finished with a .215 average and putrid .571 OPS.

Defensively, he did a good job of throwing out runners, catching 11 of 22 (50%), and pitchers had a 3.27 ERA when pitching to him. Of course, that number was helped by the fact that Blanco caught 13 of Johan Santana’s starts – which amounted to almost one-third of the times he was written into the starting lineup.

All in all, Blanco did about as well as expected. He provided very little in the way of offense, threw out runners, called a decent game, and was awful at framing and blocking pitches.

2011 Projection

Henry Blanco will not return to the Mets as a player in 2011, mainly because he is old and has nothing to offer offensively, but also because fellow Venezuelan Johan Santana is unlikely to throw a pitch. However, he is by all accounts a “good guy” with baseball acumen, so maybe he’ll latch on as a coach in the organization. Personally, I hope he doesn’t attain a role as an instructor, because his catching mechanics are atrocious, but I could see him evolving into a pitching coach or manager at some point.

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Mets Game 98: Loss to Dodgers

Dodgers 3 Mets 2

An even dozen — the Mets collected their 12th walkoff loss of 2010, losing in extras for the 7th time in 11 tries, and on the short end of a one-run ballgame for the 19th time out of 30 occurrences.

Does losing so many times in tight ballgames indicate anything? Bad luck? Poor management? Subpar fundamentals? Lack of intestinal fortitude? Or do they just plain stink?

Game Notes

Mike Pelfrey walked off the mound allowing “only” two runs, but he walked off after only five frames and 82 pitches. He gave up 6 hits and 2 walks, striking out 2, in his longest outing since June 26.

Jerry Manuel continues to insist that Pelfrey’s problems are due to his inability to establish the fastball and get ahead early. That’s partly true, but it’s mostly unhelpful. Manuel’s explanation is similar to telling you that your shirt is full of red blotches because you have a nosebleed. Thanks, I already know my nose is bleeding — but can you tell me WHY it’s bleeding? Can you tell me how to make it stop? And how to prevent it? As mentioned here before, the reason Pelfrey can’t establish his fastball, and can’t get ahead of hitters — with any of his pitches — is because of an intermittent balance problem during the leg lift that affects his arm angle and release point. You probably noticed that he was still doing that slight hunch over about half the time during the game. If he can go back to staying tall more consistently as he comes out of the leg lift, he’ll regain command, likely regain his confidence, and hopefully get back close to where he was in the first half.

Carlos Monasterios pitched pretty well for a Rule 5 pick, spinning five shutout innings. Too bad the Mets didn’t choose him in that December 2009 draft. Oh wait, they did.

The Mets used 7 pitchers in the 13-inning game, with Oliver Perez the last man standing. Somehow Ollie managed to work out of trouble started by Elmer Dessens in the 11th, and his luck continued when Matt Kemp flied out on a 3-0 pitch to lead off the 13th, but that luck ran out with the next batter James Loney — who hit a walkoff homer.

Just what the heck was Kemp thinking, by the way? There’s nothing wrong with swinging away on a 3-0 count when the situation warrants it, but considering Ollie’s wildness, hacking away there made little sense.

More bad baseball: Jose Reyes going from first to third on a groundout with one out in the top of the third. Had Reyes been thrown out — and he nearly was — it would have been out number three. Not worth the risk, since with two outs it would’ve taken a base hit to score him anyway.

Reyes pulled a Marv Throneberry and lost a ground ball in the sun in the first frame. A few minutes later, it appeared that Ike Davis similarly lost sight of a pickoff throw. The disappearing ball trick resulted in the Dodgers scoring the first run of the game.

Jason Bay had two more hits. Let’s hope these past two games are the beginning of a rampage by Bay.

Rod Barajas left the game with an oblique strain in the sixth inning. Henry Blanco took his place as a pinch-runner on second base with one out and Jose Reyes coming to bat with the score 2-1 Dodgers. Reyes singled to left to score Bay (who was on third) but station-to-station Blanco had to stop at third base. Luis Castillo hit into a DP to end the inning and strand Blanco on 3B. Why did the lead-footed Blanco pinch-run instead of Josh Thole? Hmm … well, Blanco did throw out an attempted base-stealer in the bottom of the sixth, so maybe Jerry Manuel saw that coming. (Blanco threw out another runner in extras, but there wouldn’t have been extras if the Mets score a third run in the 6th.) Maybe Thole — who isn’t exactly a speed demon, though more fleet of foot than Blanco — doesn’t score either, but it did seem to be a curious decision at the time and looks even worse after the fact.

Next Mets Game

The final game of this four-game set begins at 4:10 PM EST. R.A. Dickey goes to the hill against Clayton Kershaw. The contest will be broadcast on channel 11 / WPIX.

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Catching: How (Not) To Frame

There was a lot of jibber-jabber from the Mets bench on Sunday afternoon as home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi was inundated with a number of borderline pitches. It’s very hard to tell from the TV screen whether Cuzzi was right or wrong, since the off-center angle of the centerfield camera can make pitches that are balls look like strikes, and vice-versa. The best angle is directly behind home plate, of course — and it is the only angle that matters.

Toward that end, it is extremely important for the catcher to be skillful at properly receiving the baseball. For years and years and years, baseball coaches at every level have huffed and puffed about “framing”: the idea of catching the ball in one place (off the plate), but “easing” it into another (the strike zone). It’s considered very savvy to do so, and it seems to be taught even to little leaguers; everyone who “knows anything about catching”, knows about framing.

Despite popular belief, it’s absolutely wrong.

The catcher’s first job is to

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Mets Game 30: Win Over Giants

Mets 5 Giants 4

Same script, different cast.

Following Friday’s storyline, the Mets’ starting pitcher went deep into the game — pitching into the 8th inning — stunting the opposing offense and leaving the game in line for a win. Upon his departure, the bullpen blew the lead, sending the contest into extra innings. Eventually, the catcher sends a ball into orbit and over the fence to give the Mets a dramatic, exhilarating, walkoff victory.

As the Mets World Turns …

Game Notes

I will stop short of saying “Johan Santana didn’t have his best stuff …” because I’m beginning to believe what we’re seeing IS Johan’s best — for now, at least. Despite a fastball that hovered in the 86-88 MPH range for most of the afternoon — occasionally topping out at 90 — and less-than-precise command, Santana trudged through 7 2/3 innings, holding the Giants to 4 runs on 8 hits and no walks. He put the tying run on base but was in the dugout by the time it came around, thanks to back-to-back singles allowed by situational relievers Fernando “Nightly” Nieve and “Perpetual” Pedro Feliciano.

Henry Blanco hit a solo homer to win the game in the bottom of the 11th off Guillermo Mota. Could it have happened to a better person? (Which person? Both!)

Blanco, by the way, was on fire all day, going 3-for-5. No other Met had more than one hit, and the team had only 7 in total.

Hisanori Takahashi took the win after pitching a perfect top of the 11th, striking out 2 and expending a paltry 9 pitches (8 for strikes). Takahashi already has 3 wins in relief for the Mets.

Todd Wellemeyer “held” the Mets to only 4 runs on 3 hits and 5 walks. I say “held” because I can’t figure out how the Mets didn’t score at least 8 runs against Wellemeyer, who was and is absolutely awful. Making matters more painful was Wellemeyer’s pace, which harkened back to the days of Steve Trachsel. His four-inning outing felt like four hours of C-SPAN.

Luis Castillo left the game prior to the 8th inning with a bone bruise in his foot. No word on how long he’ll be out of action.

Next Mets Game

The Mets go for the sweep on Sunday afternoon at 1:10 PM. Oliver Perez (or Mr. Hyde) faces Tim Lincecum.

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Video from PSL Training Room

MetsBlog isn’t the only website with video coverage of Mets spring training … we have some of our own available below, which is purportedly recorded from the trainer’s room at Tradition Field in Port St. Lucie.

I say “purportedly” because the person with the camera isn’t exactly an expert on baseball, nor even a Mets fan. But he was the best cameraman we could hire on the meager MetsToday budget … and, well, you get what you pay for.

The quality isn’t great, so it’s hard to tell who is getting the back rub, but the videographer claims it’s “one of the Mets catchers” (a good bet, considering that half the players in camp don the tools of ignorance).

My money is on Rod Barajas or Henry Blanco … though, for all I know this is re-used video of Ramon Castro from last spring.

If you can positively identify exactly who this is, please let us know in the comments.

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Henry Blanco is a Backup

henry-blanco-foldedAccording to Mets GM Omar Minaya, Henry Blanco is a backup catcher.

And you thought Minaya didn’t know things.

Unfortunately, Minaya also announced that the Mets’ starting catching position would be a competition between Omir Santos and Josh Thole, both of whom are also backup catchers. So maybe Omar only knows some things.

If this is really the way the Mets think about the backstop position, it might have made sense to sign veteran free-agent Mike Sweeney and have him platoon with Mike Jacobs behind the plate. Both Mikes started their careers as catchers, both would be at least as good defensively as Santos/Thole, and both would have a better chance of providing offensive production that approaches the best that Jerry Grote ever mustered.

It might be different if either Thole or Santos were remarkable defensively — you could live with substandard offense. But if you’re going to hit like Charlie O’Brien, you darn well better catch like Charlie O’Brien.

My apologies to the Kool-Aid drinking Mets fans who believe Thole will hit better than .240, and/or think Santos is going to duplicate his surprising offensive “prowess” of 2009.

At this point the Mets may as well sign Jose Molina and make him the starter. He’ll at least give them a strength on one side of the ball … and it’ll give the Mets an excuse to apply Tony LaRussa’s strategy of hitting the pitcher eighth.

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Catcher: Now What?

You know the saying, “be careful what you wish for — you just may get it” ?

We all wished the Mets would fail in their attempt to sign Bengie Molina, and our prayers were answered. But, now who will be the backstop?

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Mets Sign Henry Blanco

henry-blanco-catch
It’s not yet official, but it’s as good as done — the Mets have signed Henry Blanco to a $1.5M contract, pending a physical.

Hat tip to MetsBlog.

Even though the agreement is in place, and Blanco is on his way to New York for a physical as I type this, there is still a part of me that is absolutely terrified that the deal falls through — so I likely won’t sleep until I see the official press release on Mets.com. Maybe it’s because the Yorvit Torrealba debacle still gives me nightmares. That was, after all, the last time the Mets were this close to landing a catcher with outstanding framing skills since Charlie O’Brien.

Because really, how many outstanding defensive backup catchers are out there? And particularly, ones who can hit in the .210 – .230 range? The Yankees of course had Jose Molina, but they set the standard at every position. With Blanco, the Mets are equal to the World Champions in regard to at least one roster spot.

What’s really puzzling is how the Mets were able to nab the 38-year-old backstop for only $1.5M — a mere pittance for someone with a career .658 OPS. Once again Omar Minaya sprinkles some magic dust into the eyes of an unwitting free agent, and connives him into signing a bargain-basement contract.

In addition to the Blanco news, the Mets also made official the signing of first baseman and “Phillie for life” Chris Coste, who also can catch a little. With Coste’s powerful righthanded bat platooning with Daniel Murphy at first base, Henry Blanco backing up the catching position, Alex Cora set as the utility infielder, and Elmer Dessens on the brink of re-signing, the Mets have managed to fill every vital hole BEFORE the winter meetings begin. Well done!

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