Many of you may have seen the Mets first televised spring training game of 2011, played against the Braves on Saturday afternoon. These games don’t count for much, so I won’t go into detail about what happened, but there are things we can take away from them; here are notes regarding selected players.
Velocity looked good, and he mixed in some good downward-breaking curves, though his ability to command it was inconsistent. In fact his command overall was inconsistent on all pitches. His mechanics look fairly similar to what we saw last year — all over the place, inefficient, and dangerous, particularly when he overthrows. He’s out of control and without balance at the the knee lift, causing him to have to adjust his upper body balance which in turn causes him to open up his front side too early and fall over toward 1B. Strangely enough, it seems his mechanics go more out of whack from the stretch; usually it is the other way around because there are less moving parts compared to the windup. I wonder if it’s because he is rushing his motion with men on base?
Thole struggled a bit behind the plate in the first inning with Mejia on the mound, with balls popping out of his glove and getting by. There are a few reasons to explain the issues. First, it was the first game of the spring, so there is going to be some nervousness and rust to shake off. Second, he might have been using a new glove — maybe not brand-new, but possibly new in terms of game use (i.e., the one he was breaking in last year for game use in ’11). Third, Mejia’s command was off, and it’s difficult to adjust to a pitcher who throws 92-95 MPH and isn’t hitting spots. Fourth, at least one time it appeared as though Mejia crossed him up; Thole looked like he was waiting for a pitch to break inside to a LH hitter — i.e., a cutter — but it stayed up and away and by the time Thole adjusted, the ball was moving too quickly and deflected off his glove. Finally, I still don’t like the way Thole sets up behind the plate, with his upper body leaning forward — it makes him vulnerable to being handcuffed by pitches that break late. More than half of MLB catchers use a similarly inefficient stance, but can make up for it with supreme athleticism and anticipating the flight of pitches. Thole might be athletic enough to get away with it too, but time will tell. I talk about this a bit more on a video chat with Kerel Cooper coming soon at OnTheBlack.
On the one wild pitch by Mejia that allowed a runner to score from third, Thole made the mistake of trying to catch the ball with his glove — as an infield might catch a ground ball — rather than keep his glove down to the ground and block the ball with his body. So when the ball took a wicked hop, it skipped off of his glove instead of getting absorbed by the chest protector. I’m not going to blame Thole, though — that was a very tough pitch to stop and it might have skipped past him even if he did execute proper blocking mechanics. But spring training is about the process, not necessarily the results.
This kid was a one-man wrecking crew for the Braves. I know it’s only one game, and it’s spring training, but
wow, this young man can swing the bat. And he’s only 21 years old.
His mechanics look pretty good in that he stays on a straight line toward home plate and gets momentum going forward. Though, he doesn’t get his head and upper body low enough at and after the release, which is strange because he used to get his “nose to toes” in the past. As a result his release is a bit on the high side and he cuts off his arm deceleration. I wonder if he was just jacked up and over throwing? Otherwise his velocity looks good and he gets heavy sink, which led to a bunch of ground balls. His one mistake was hit over the fence — a high, flat fastball that got too much of the plate.
Luis looked smooth turning the DP, but has not regained any of the range he’s lost over the years. At the plate he was his usual underwhelming self.
Buchholz showed he has a sharp 12-6 curve, and his mechanics are fairly efficient in that he has good balance through most of his motion. From a distance, and with a very quick look at him from the chest up, he sort of resembles Aaron Heilman (facial features, not mechanics).
I like Mike’s footwork behind the plate and his quick release on throws to second. I don’t love the way he drops to a knee upon receipt of nearly every pitch; that is partly related to the Thole’s aforementioned issue with leaning forward in the stance, but also is attributed to not being familiar with the movement of a pitcher’s pitches. Otherwise, he looks relaxed, comfortable, and confident back there. At the plate, though, he looked a bit overmatched.
This young man does not get cheated on his swings; he kind of reminds me of Mike Hessman in that way. However, there was a situation where the Mets had a man on third and less than two out, and all Zach needed to do was get the bat on the ball. He had a 3-0 count and was given a meatball but he took it for strike one. Since it was ST and the Mets needed a run, I’d be surprised if he didn’t have the green light there. Eventually, Lutz struck out taking two huge hacks at tougher pitches. Not great situational hitting; I’d have preferred to see him cut down his swing a bit and either lift or stroke that 3-0 pitch into the outfield to get the run home.