Spring Training Game 1: Mets vs. Nationals

Mets 5 Nationals 3

It’s always nice to win. But with so many different players involved in the ballgame, we don’t judge spring training by wins and losses.

Mets Game Notes

Shaun Marcum worked quickly and threw strikes — exactly the kind of pitching I like to see.

Stephen “Shut Him Down” Strasburg struggled with his mechanics in the initial inning and Ruben Tejada took advantage, getting ahead on the count 3-1 and then sitting on two fastballs over the middle of the plate — the second of which Tejada lifted into the Floria breeze. The ball wound up drifting over the center-field fence to give the Mets a two-run lead.

All eyes, of course, were on young phenom Zack Wheeler. He was amped up in his first inning, over-throwing a bit. In his second frame he was more relaxed and pitched more naturally. His velocity and fastball command look strong, and though he doesn’t yet have great command of his secondary stuff, it has good potential — his curveball is straight over the top with good 12-6 drop, and he gets good downward movement on what appears to be a slider. I didn’t see any change-ups, and not sure whether he throws one. There’s no doubt he has swing-and-miss stuff. My only concern is that makes his shoulder work really hard in delivering the ball. Although his mechanics look fluid and he repeats them well, his throwing arm lags a bit behind the rest of his body; his motion reminds me — a lot — of Mark Prior‘s.

Lucas Duda looks more beefy than he has in the past; to me he’s always been more gangly than beefy. Maybe it’s the oversized white uniform making him look bigger, or maybe it’s the beard. In any case, his swing looks longer than I remember. I know batting coach Dave Hudgens was working with Duda on how his hands go back (the “take-back”) into the launch position, but that hasn’t done anything to shorten his swing — which to me prevents Duda from being a consistent hitter. Duda’s left elbow flies up high as his hands drop, leading to a long, loopy, “arm swing.” A big swing like that is fine for lifting pitches low and middle-in, but leaves a hitter vulnerable on fastballs above the belt. At this point in his career, Duda might be best taking an all-or-nothing Adam Dunn approach: working the count, waiting for mistakes, and trying to pound the ball over the fence on nearly every swing.

Ian Desmond‘s mustache is creepy. For a split-second I thought he was Jose Valentin.

Cory Mazzoni appears to have good velocity; if the radar readings were correct, he was humming up to 96 MPH. He has a curious hitch in his motion during the leg lift, where he kind of sits down on the back leg for a moment; not sure what that’s all about. Overall his mechanics are slightly out of balance and his follow-through takes him toward 1B; both are signs that command and consistency could be a challenge.

Darin Gorski severely over-rotates during leg lift, making it very difficult to keep a consistent release point, in turn making command / control a challenge. That over-rotation causes his front side to fly open early, leaving his throwing arm to lag behind, and this is most noticeable when throwing his breaking pitch — when it appears as though he’s twisting his arm instead just his hand to get breaking-ball spin on the ball.

At the plate, Collin Cowgill reminds me a little bit of Joe McEwing, mainly because of his upright batting stance and the way he dives into the plate. For most of his career, Super Joe was a singles hitter, but in his youth he had some pop — he hit 8 HR and posted a .449 SLG in less than 300 at-bats for the Mets in 2001. In fact, the minor-league careers of Cowgill and McEwing share similarities. As a 25-year-old, McEwing hit 15 HR with a .556 SLG and .947 OPS through 603 plate appearances split between AA and AAA. Cowgill as a 24-year-old hit 16 HR with a .464 SLG and .825 OPS in 577 PAs in AA, then hit 13 HR with a .554 SLG and .984 OPS in 456 PAs as a 25-year-old. That doesn’t necessarily mean Cowgill is going to become a hitter like McEwing was in the bigs, but it’s an interesting comparison; the only reason I thought of it was due to Cowgill’s hitting style.

Landon Powell is a big man. A very big man. Like, Babe Ruth big. That makes for a nice, big target for pitchers to aim at and a fearsome roadblock to prevent runners from scoring, but he can’t move too quickly so he’s not going to stop many balls in the dirt, nor will he be taking many extra bases. He’s otherwise fairly athletic, but needs to shed a few dozen pounds, because even his bat looks slow.

That’s all I have for now. Anything you saw that you can share? Anything from the game you’d like to discuss? Post in the comments.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Quinn February 23, 2013 at 9:02 pm
    “Landon Powell is a big man. A very big man. Like, Babe Ruth big. That makes for a nice, big target for pitchers to aim at and a fearsome roadblock to prevent runners from scoring, but he can’t move too quickly so he’s not going to stop many balls in the dirt, nor will he be taking many extra bases”
    He got a hit and i thought for sure thats a double.. nope he is very slow.. alsohasn’t there been a focus on baserunning? If so why didnt Byrd advance yto 3rd on a pass ball in the first?
    • Joe Janish February 24, 2013 at 12:41 am
      Well, it was only the first game of the spring. I suppose we can give everyone a pass. You would think, though, that Byrd would be more aggressive, considering he’s auditioning for a job.
      • Quinn February 24, 2013 at 3:04 am
        I guess im harsh on Byrd because i dont like the fact he popped for PEDs and he was smilin at second like he had just won the RF position
        • Izzy February 24, 2013 at 8:52 am
          Maybe he had just won that job, and if you don’t like PED users there are tons of guys you shouldn’t like. The only problem is its impossible to know who uses and who doesn’t. Just because guys aren’t caught doesn’t mean they are clean.
        • Quinn February 24, 2013 at 2:22 pm
          I dont like alot of players and i dread seeing a mets name come out.
        • Joe Janish February 24, 2013 at 10:52 pm
          Like Cesar Puello?
  2. argonbunnies February 24, 2013 at 1:41 am
    One of the MetsBlog guys quoted Dan Warthen as saying that he loves Wheeler’s “clean, minimal injury-risk mechanics”. Oy. We shall see. For what it’s worth, I don’t see the Prior similarity that strongly — Prior got lower, squared up better and followed through more fluidly than what I’ve seen of Wheeler.

    As for Duda, in 2011 and early 2012, his swing looked quite short to me. Yeah, there was some fiddling around before it (I’ve never been a fan of the double toe-tap), but the bat went straight to the ball, quickly and efficiently. The longer, loopier swing seemed to show up last June. Sad to hear that the tinkering hasn’t fixed it yet.

    I didn’t see Mazzoni pitch, but the description reminds me of Oswalt. Good comp, Joe? Roy never had arm trouble, but did strain a few hip flexors with that odd sit-down motion.

    As for Gorski over-rotating, Joe, I’m curious when this is a bad sign and when it isn’t. Dontrelle Willis did it, and first it was key to his success, and then it was blamed (in part) for his failure, and then he stopped it and really went downhill. Felix Hernandez over-rotates like crazy. Roy Halladay rotates more than most. Jeff Weaver turns far, then never really turns back, throwing severely across his body, and somehow he’s never had arm trouble. And none of those guys have control issues. Flukey?

    • argonbunnies February 24, 2013 at 5:02 am
      Er, “minimal-injury-risk” was the key phrase there. I left out a hyphen. I can’t find the exact quote, but it was something like that. “Safe” was the point.
    • Joe Janish February 24, 2013 at 10:38 am
      The main similarity between Wheeler and Prior is they both have too much / inefficient right arm action that leaves the ball too far behind where it needs to be at foot strike. Wheeler also seems to swing the ball a little behind his back after it leaves his glove – a la John Maine, but not quite as drastic.

      Agreed on Duda; I thought I was seeing things.

      Interesting comp to Oswalt; I’ll have to think about that.

      As for over-rotating … probably 90% of MLB pitchers over-rotate to some degree, because nearly every pitching coach on the planet (at every level) promotes the myth that “rotating your hips” results in velocity. I’m not sure how Weaver has escaped injury so far, but, I’ve also not really examined his motion to the degree of other pitchers. But, the pitchers you mention — King Felix, Halladay, and Weaver — all have impeccable control, which means they somehow find a way to correct themselves prior to foot strike. It’s kind of like batters with weird and inefficient stances, who somehow get the bat to the right spot at the right time. Unfortunately for Gorski, he doesn’t correct himself often enough to throw consistent strikes.

      • argonbunnies February 24, 2013 at 10:53 pm
        Yeah, I guess there are always those special guys who may start their motions with all sorts of weirdness, but then straighten things out before it’s too late.

        Have you ever watched footage of Sandy Koufax leaning way off the back of the mound during his leg raise? I have no idea how he stayed balanced and on line. Nolan Ryan also had some kind of similar tilt going on, plus over-rotation… maybe that’s why he couldn’t throw strikes for his first 16 seasons.

        Anyway, yeah, I guess it shouldn’t be a shocker that Gorski isn’t Koufax or King Felix. Might still be a cheap LOOGY, though…

        • Joe Janish February 24, 2013 at 11:26 pm
          Sandy Koufax was on line during his entire motion; he leaned but it was still online, and a means of starting a distant point of momentum. The awkward thing he did was lean back and arch his back when he brought the ball back from his glove. Then he came way over the top (similar to Jim Palmer) to the point where he had to be impinging his shoulder.

          Ryan over-rotated somewhat but he focused on getting “tall” to “fall”; in other words, though he might have over-rotated, I don’t think it was his intention so much as a function of trying to get his knee lift abnormally high.

        • argonbunnies February 25, 2013 at 9:39 pm
          Interesting. Would you ever recommend those techniques — high knee lift, lean back — to pitchers? I’m having trouble thinking of anyone who does either today.