Mets Game 1: Win Over Padres

Mets 11 Padres 2

The Mets are in first place!

Could a Mets fan be happier with the Opening Day result? I don’t think so. The Mets scored more than ten runs on Opening Day for the fifth time in their history as they increased their Opening Day record overall to 34-18 and remain undefeated in Opening Days at Citi Field. The pitching was great, the offense was great, the defense was great. The Padres gave them opportunities and the Mets pounced on them. It was as close to a perfect game as one can hope for.

Does that mean it’s all downhill from here?

Oh I’m only (half-)kidding. On to the in-depth baseball analysis and random thoughts that passed through my head during the ballgame.

Mets Game Notes

It didn’t take long for Collin Cowgill to endear himself with Mets fans — a grand slam on Opening Day has pretty much solidified his status as a fan favorite, at least through June. I loved seeing him racing around the bases on the salami, as opposed to standing, watching it, and jogging. He hit the ball, put down his head, and ran like hell — very old school. Awesome. Granted, it was a line drive, and barely made it over the wall, but still; I’ve seen plenty of guys get into Cadillac mode on balls that were short of the fence.

Cowgill, by the way, is leading the league in RBI with 4, and tied for second in homeruns. He takes some big cuts at the plate.

Jonathon Niese has grown into a pitcher who is enjoyable to watch. He keeps cool, works quickly, doesn’t mess around, goes right after hitters when he’s supposed to, and has learned how to pitch around hitters when he needs to. Also liked seeing him use his curveball as his main secondary pitch. If there’s a negative I think he might be slowing his motion down just a tick on the curve and what looks to be some kind of a change-up (it looks like it might be a slow fastball, similar to what Catfish Hunter used to throw in his later years). Is the slowdown enough to telegraph his off-speed pitches? Perhaps not. He’s also still dropping his arm angle on the cutter, but we’ve been discussing this for three (four?) years running so, whatever — it is what it is.

By the way, Niese is leading MLB in hitting (1.000).

On the other end o the spectrum, eternal enigma Edinson Volquez showed why he is an eternal enigma — he completely fell apart after walking John Buck with two out in the second. It’s really a shame that he’s such a head case, because his stuff can be electric; not many pitchers can spot a 93-MPH knee-high fastball on both sides of the plate with movement, mix in an excellent, sinking changeup, and also have a super-tight 12-6 curve. But at the slightest hint of adversity, he becomes filled with self-doubt and anger and can no longer focus on the task at hand. That’s bad enough, but the fact he outwardly communicates his fear through body language makes him akin to a bleeding dolphin in a sea of sharks. If I was his manager, I’d have considered pulling him immediately after the second inning, replaced him with the game 3 or 4 starter, and maybe start him again on Thursday or Friday. But, that’s too much of an out-of-the-box execution for a Major League manager, and it’s too difficult for most MLB pitchers to change gears mid-stream / get out of their routine. It’s easier for everyone to just hope a guy can get out of his own mess, one way or the other.

After seeing Volquez crumble, how happy are you that Mike Pelfrey is in Minnesota? The ability to keep an even keel may be as important as skill set for a pitcher — because one without the other can be maddeningly useless.

David Wright kept his home opener hitting streak perfect, collecting a single in the third. He was really, really loading up as he prepares to swing, jacking his right elbow way up to the sky. Personally, I don’t like to see that — and discourage it in my teaching — because it almost always leads to a long swing and uppercut. Wright had a similar load in ’09 and ’10, when he was striking out at record rates. However, it could’ve just been a result of Opening Day excitement, or maybe he’s using that swing in certain situations.

Wright also stole two bases; he leads MLB in that category.

Lucas Duda had a prime opportunity to drive a ball in the third with two out, 3-1 lead, a 3-0 count, Marlon Byrd on second base, and Volquez clearly playing head games with himself. Duda took a flat, fat fastball over the middle of the plate, then took ball four on the next pitch. Yes, he wound up with a walk. Yes, John Buck followed with a RBI single in the next at-bat. So it all worked out well. But, let’s forget the result and focus on the process: why isn’t Duda hacking in that situation? You don’t want a batter to hack for the sake of hacking, but if that wasn’t the pitch he wanted, what pitch was he zoning for in that spot? It looked to me like he was taking the pitch all the way — and that’s fine if the score is tied, or your team is behind, or Justin Turner or Ruben Tejada is at the plate, but Duda, with a lead, with two out? I want him salivating in that spot, looking to crush something. I know the stat guys love OBP but for Lucas Duda to be valuable he has to hit the long ball, and one of the secrets to high homerun totals is swinging on 3-0 counts.

Speaking of Buck, GKR relayed the info that Terry Collins identified the veteran catcher as being “the most demonstrative catcher he’s had in meetings so far.” adding that Buck “takes the meetings over,” “dictates how they’re going to pitch to certain hitters,” is “assertive,” and, when young pitchers shake him off, he’ll go out and let them know that he has the game plan and is in charge.

After hearing that preplanned talking point, I wanted to bang my head against the wall, because it was presented as if all of these attributes were some kind of revelation, or made John Buck remarkable. Well, I guess that’s true, if one lived inside the bubble of the Mets organization over the past three years. However, if one was involved in any other baseball club, at any other level all the way down to high school (and really, below that), one would already know these are traits EXPECTED of a catcher — this is part of the catcher’s job, it’s what he’s supposed to do. Thank goodness John Buck has shown some homerun power in his past and more recently showed willingness to take a walk, or the data-based evaluators in the front office might not have lucked into acquiring him. Though, I suppose it was a matter of time before the Mets finally brought in an everyday catcher from outside the organization.

Marlon Byrd picked up where he left off in Florida, swatting two hard-hit RBI singles. He’s really been juicing the ball this spring.

From the Mets perspective, there was one negative in the ballgame that was glazed over by the eleven runs — Ike Davis was oh-fer-five with four strikeouts. Ouch. Good time to do that, though — save the contact for games when the Mets will need it.

Jedd Gyorko, and it’s pronounced “jerk-oh”? Really? Either he got his butt kicked quite a bit as a kid, or he did a lot of butt-kicking.

Next Mets Game

The Mets and Padres take Tuesday off and go at it again on Wednesday night at 7:10 PM. Matt Harvey makes his first start of the year against Clayton Richard.

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. Dan B April 2, 2013 at 6:49 am
    the Met pitcher who was the worst at keeping an even keel was John Maine. If he ever thought as much about the hitter he was facing as he did about the hitter he had just faced he would of had a long career. Nice job Neese, maybe he is better then #4 after all.
  2. AC Wayne April 2, 2013 at 8:37 am
    I know it’s just one game but Ike Davis’ 4 strikeouts, OUCH! the rest of the lineup was having a field day, I’m not asking for a 3-for-4 day but how ’bout a deep fly ball at the warning track, Davis will have to wait for Wed. night to redeem himself when he’ll be up against Clayton Richard a lefty
  3. Dan Capwell April 2, 2013 at 9:08 am
    Nice win. Encouraging outing from Jon Niese, good to see the opposing starter Pull a Pelfrey instead of ours.

    BTW– we got the grand slam issue out of the way and Cowgill has already out-RBI’d Brad Emaus.

  4. Izzy April 2, 2013 at 9:40 am
    YaY!!!! The Mets are the best opener team in the world!
    Dan B I think Maine’s career was destroyed by shoulder problems. BUT, his career is not over. He’s a fish. He’ll retuirn to Queens in a few days. Dan C. Is a guy so mediocre that one has to compare him to Emaus?
  5. Joe April 2, 2013 at 10:39 am
    I understand, especially given his background, why Joe is upset as to the catcher talking points but simply put there are many things in this world that should be obvious, should be the norm consistently, but is not.

    I don’t think highlighting them in such and such a case is meant to say they should be a “revelation.” It means that sometimes you have to highlight them to make sure they are in place and re-enforce them when they come to be.

    I’m glad Pelfrey is gone as I’m glad Bay is gone and Torres isn’t the CF instead of Cowgill, even if the replacement in each case isn’t great. (Cowgill is a lot easier to root for than Byrd, of course).

    • Joe Janish April 2, 2013 at 1:54 pm
      “I understand, especially given his background, why Joe is upset as to the catcher talking points but simply put there are many things in this world that should be obvious, should be the norm consistently, but is not.

      I don’t think highlighting them in such and such a case is meant to say they should be a “revelation.” It means that sometimes you have to highlight them to make sure they are in place and re-enforce them when they come to be.”

      If you watched the broadcast and listened to how it was presented, you would have thought that John Buck was the first catcher in the history of baseball to take charge and have an opinion. But, I suppose that’s the only way to present it without coming out and saying “the catchers that were here before were incomplete and inadequate.”

      Had I let that talking point breeze by, and had I not reacted the way I did, then it wouldn’t be me. You’ve been here long enough to know I have strong opinions and call out whatever I deem necessary to call out, so it shouldn’t be a surprise. It’s my style, and one of the reasons people visit this site (or avoid the site).

      I get why GKR didn’t come out and ask “where the heck is the leadership behind the plate?” over the past four years — you have to be positive, and not throw people under the bus when in a broadcasting position. However I find it annoying that, when a real catcher is finally in uniform, his incredibly ordinary, expected traits are lauded as something special and unique. And I’m going to craw about it because I want to make certain that everyone reading understands this is what catchers are supposed to do. It’s kind of like making a point to say “this pitcher does wind sprints every day, pitches bullpens in between starts, and studies the scouting reports of opposing hitters” — yeah, no kidding, it’s his job to do those things.

  6. NormE April 2, 2013 at 11:03 am
    Marlon Byrd’s “really been juicing the ball this spring.”


    Come on, Joe J., why don’t you say what you really mean?

    • Joe Janish April 2, 2013 at 1:55 pm
      Glad someone caught it!
  7. Dan B April 2, 2013 at 12:31 pm
    Izzy, Maine had focus problems before the shoulder. I did realize he was on the Marlins but isn’t being in the back of the Marlin bullpen the definition of your career being over?
  8. argonbunnies April 2, 2013 at 3:19 pm
    My observations:

    Duda‘s front foot is a mess, doing different things from pitch to pitch.

    Ike is either guessing wrong, or not seeing the ball well, or his timing is off. Not alarming, just cold.

    Cowgill and Byrd swung at everything, especially down in the count, but at least they can square up a meatball.

    John Buck is a large dude. Showed good technique on a blocked curve. Hit some balls hard. The fact that he apparently can take charge, despite Joe’s contention that that should be the bare minimum, sounds refreshing. I think the Mets aren’t the only MLB club who’s lacked that.

    I didn’t notice whether Murphy was doing the early hip-turn from last year, or keeping the stiff front side that he’d planned on (which led to his hurt ribs). Did anyone see?

    I was worried that the young Mets would be missing out on Johan’s example for competitiveness, but Niese seems to have stepped up. Looked in charge for most of the game, and really fought Terry to stay in. As for his pitching, he yanked a few to his glove side, hung a couple curves, and didn’t throw many truly nasty pitches, but he did a good job switching up velocity, movement and location just enough to keep the Padres off balance.

    Scott Rice‘s first few pitches didn’t go where he wanted, but after that he looked nasty. Good angle, good sink, good change. Reminds me of a left-handed Matt Wise, when Wise was good.

    Flipping through other games, I was reminded how the Mets’ booth is the best in the bigs. What viewership the Mets retain through their losing seasons should be credited largely to Gary, Keith and Ron. If the organization’s goal is to attract fans, they should pay those guys more than they do middle relievers.

    • NormE April 2, 2013 at 11:21 pm
      Argon, very nice post. Loved your comment about GKR.
    • Joe Janish April 3, 2013 at 11:44 pm
      Really good stuff, bunnies. We’ll have to keep an eye on several of the issues you point out.

      Thanks very much.