Mets Game 43: Loss to Reds

Reds 4 Mets 0

For the second time this season, the Mets were shut out as they lost for the 26th time this season, and 14th time in Flushing.

Mets Game Notes

I have always liked Mike Leake, even during his days at Arizona State. But, he’s not an exceptional pitcher — he’s a solid, steady, back-end starter who eats innings and gives his team a chance to win. So to see the Mets manage only three hits and two walks against him in seven innings probably says more about the Mets hitters than Leake’s prowess. Leake was hitting his spots, but he didn’t have filthy stuff.

It took Jonathon Niese 48 pitches to get through the first frame, which is not only unacceptable from the perspective of judging Niese but there’s also an argument that he should never have been left in that long. He was sucking wind by pitch 30, and I get that there were two outs so Terry Collins and Dan Warthen were just hoping the next pitch would turn into out three, but at that point there should have been urgency in getting a reliever warmed up and Niese removed from the game. It wasn’t until Niese was well over 40 pitches that Colin McHugh began tossing in the bullpen. Injuries occur when athletes are fatigued, and Niese was beyond fatigued.

After making Niese throw almost 50 pitches in the initial inning, I was a little surprised to see the Reds so aggressive in inning two. I suppose they figured Niese would be pounding the strike zone after that marathon inning, but I might have considered forcing Niese to throw a strike and try to push him out of the game and get into the Mets bullpen by the third or fourth inning.

During the postgame on SNY, Terry Collins admitted that he wasn’t going to allow Niese to throw more than 60 pitches in that first inning. WHAT???!!!!! Where does that number come from, pray tell? Does he normally throw a high-intensity, no-rest, 60-pitch bullpen session? If so, OK, maybe I understand the logic behind that. Otherwise, that kind of comment is grounds for death by firing squad.

To provide some perspective, most organizations automatically remove their young minor league pitching prospects from a game if they throw between 30 and 35 pitches in one inning, to protect them from injury. News flash: a 21-year-old arm and a 26-year-old arm are equally developed and have completed development; there’s no concern for damaging growth plates or anything. In fact, the older arm is more prone to a fatigue injury because it’s had more years of use. I’m not suggesting that Niese should have been removed at 35 pitches. Rather, I’m suggesting that there should be some kind of organizational edict that protects MLBers — they’re being paid much, much more money, after all, and if they go on the DL it’s much more financially painful than losing an A-ball guy. Sixty pitches? Really? Unbelievable. I wish a beat writer would ask Collins where that number came from.

Considering that Niese threw 48 pitches in the first frame, he gave the Mets pretty good length. I thought for sure he wouldn’t make it through the fifth inning, yet he managed to finish six full frames.

What’s wrong with Niese? I’m not entirely sure. We discussed the arm angle issue, but he’s been able to perform reasonably well with that issue in the past. He’s normally a bulldog who remains unflappable in the face of adversity, who keeps his confidence in tough spots such as he experienced in the first inning. But on this particular evening, his face changed — he looked lost. The battler we’re used to seeing didn’t show up. Is he pitching through pain? Is it the overall malaise of this club weighing down on him?

The Mets’ defense wasn’t helpful in picking up Niese in the first inning, but, in their, um, defense, it’s tough to keep focus and your edge when you’re standing out in the field for so long, watching ball after ball after ball.

Both Lucas Duda and Daniel Murphy misplayed balls later on in the game, but neither were charged with errors. Not everything shows up in the boxscore.

I was mildly surprised to see Scott Rice appear in this game, and further surprised to see him pitch the entire 8th inning. I understand he had an entire day off since his last outing, but by that point in the game, it was clear that the Mets went in the tank and weren’t going to launch any kind of fight. Since Rice has been one of the Mets’ better-performing relievers of late, one would think you’d keep him fresh for Wednesday afternoon’s ballgame — you know, the one with Matt Harvey on the mound, the one that the Mets absolutely cannot let get away if there’s a chance of victory. More important than keeping Rice fresh is keeping him mysterious. While Rice has put up some decent numbers for a 31-year-old rookie, it doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to realize that at least part of the minor-league journeyman’s success has to do with being unknown, unscouted, and under-exposed. Why show him to Todd Frazier, Jay Bruce, and Donald Lutz if you don’t have to, in a game in which you’re chasing a loss? Doesn’t it make more sense to preserve the mystery, knowing you might need him for a tight spot Wednesday’s game? Or, are you expecting Matt Harvey to toss a complete-game shutout? Maybe I’m overreacting, but as of the sixth inning, I’m sending McHugh out to take one for the team. I know it was only a three-run ballgame, but it felt like an eight- or nine-run game by that point.

Ike Davis has completely lost his confidence at the plate. He looks like a confused, fearful zombie with a bat in his hands. I don’t know what is the right thing to do at this point, but judging by his body language, it’s time to do something drastic. Throughout his slump this time last year, he rarely if ever showed facial expressions and body language that exuded that much negativity.

Something I noticed about Joey Votto: with two strikes, he moved a few inches closer to the plate, and choked up on the bat about an inch or two. That’s old school, and I can’t for the life of me understand why more hitters don’t do that.

Why is Lucas Duda swinging at the first pitch leading off the bottom of the ninth, down four?

Rick Ankiel followed by swinging through a 1-0 pitch. What am I missing? Seriously, has there been a rule change? Is it possible to hit an empty-bases grand slam if the ball hits the target on the dunk tank behind the beer garden / next to Blue Smoke?

Sam Lecure looks a bit like Bob McClure.

A comment was made by Gary Cohen that the Mets’ offense is built around a foundation of on-base percentage. Hmm … just one, minor problem with that: the Mets have very few players who have displayed above-average OBPs for a sustained period in MLB. Darn! Back to the drawing board …

Along the same lines, I watched the Moneyball movie again a few weeks ago, and it planted a seed in my mind: when are the Mets going to sign Scott Hatteberg and turn this season around?

Next Mets Game

The final game of the series begins at 1:10 p.m. Matt Harvey goes to the hill against Mat Latos in what should be a classic pitchers’ duel. I will be attending – look for the guy with the Paul Janish jersey in the left field landing. Well, shoot, you probably don’t need the location — I can’t imagine anyone else showing up to Citi Field with a bright red “Janish 7” jersey. In fact, I can’t imagine too many people showing up, period — if Harvey wasn’t pitching, I wonder if attendance would be below 10,000 for a Wednesday afternoon game, facing a sweep.

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. AC Wayne May 22, 2013 at 12:20 am
    I think it’s time for Ike to eat some humble pie. Send him down to AAA where he can gain some confidence. Maybe he’ll be able to concentrate better and work on his swing.
  2. TexasGusCC May 22, 2013 at 12:22 am
    “Otherwise, that kind of comment is grounds for death by firing squad. ”

    WHEN?!!! WHERE?!!! Can I go first, please??

    • TexasGusCC May 22, 2013 at 12:24 am
      go = shoot
  3. gary s May 22, 2013 at 12:39 am
    I will be in section 326…Part of my Matt Harvey miniplan.I figure if he throws a no hitter that shouls assure him of a no decision.Maybe i will stop by too see you.What section are you in??
    • Joe Janish May 22, 2013 at 12:12 pm
      337, row 2. Look for the Janish 7 shirt, among the sea of red.

      Hope to see you

  4. DaveSchneck May 22, 2013 at 9:16 am
    Good post with all good points. I must say that on many occasions in my youth I threw many 100 pitch innings in stickball, with a tennis ball no less. Now that is old school. Maybe Collins did the same way back when.

    It is hard to comment on this Mets team except to say I can’t recall seeing a MLB team that was more collectively “lost”. My hypothesis of the early 9th inning swings is that they were simply trying to avoid having another game with double-digit Ks. And congrats, they accomplished the goal!

  5. MsMet May 22, 2013 at 10:34 am
    A sad situation all around. They need to show accountability. Send IKE and Valdespin down. Maybe even Tejada. Bring up Quintanilla. They have no MLB ready first base readyplayer. could have signed Daric Barton but did not want to spend a million dollars. By Collins not having any job security he is managing in desperation. By platooning, no one can get in an offensive groove and he is single handedly destroying the bullpen, Familiar, Aitchinson and Rice will be soon
    • Jomama May 22, 2013 at 1:02 pm
      Send Ike down for sure but Valdy? You’re not buying into the media nonsense about the bat fling/clubhouse cancer are you? Jesus. Give the kid some AB’s – like a month’s worth. I can guarantee he’s going to get more hits than Ike and Tejada combined.