May 04

Summer of 1973; The Forgotten Championship – Tom Seaver Against Bob Gibson

In today’s installment of “The Summer of 1973; The Forgotten Championship,’’ I chose a game from the month of April and will analyze it through the box score.

My pick is the fourth game of the season, April 12, at St. Louis, with Tom Seaver outdueling Bob Gibson, 2-1, to give the Mets a 4-0 start.

SEAVER: Carried the load all year.

SEAVER: Carried the load all year.

It was Seaver’s second start, with his first being a shutout over Philadelphia’s Steve Carlton. His third start was a 1-0 loss to Chicago’s Ferguson Jenkins.

Three games against three Hall of Famers, and five runs of support. It was pretty much that way for Seaver that season, his second in which he won the Cy Young Award.

Seaver was magnificent, going 19-10 with a league-leading 2.08 ERA, 18 complete games and 290 innings pitched. You don’t find that kind of durability anymore.

There are other amazing numbers, including a 0.976 WHIP and a 251-64 strikeouts-walks ratio. Seaver averaged 7.8 strikeouts per nine innings, the fourth straight season out of five in which he led the NL in that category.

All that is simply saying the words “overwhelmingly awesome and dominant’’ in numerical language. Old stats or new, batters had a hard time hitting off Seaver, let alone scoring against him that year.

In examining the box score from that afternoon, you can gain a sense of much the game has changed, beginning with it played in the afternoon.

Because it was a day game – and the match-ups – I thought it might have been Opening Day in St. Louis, but that was the previous day. A massive crowd of 12,290 showed up Opening Day, but only 6,356 saw Seaver-Carlton, which was played in a nifty 1:51.

In addition to the attendance, time it was played and length, what also stood out for me was how clean the box scores were. The Mets used only ten players, the last being Phil Hennigan relieving Seaver in the eighth inning. The Cardinals used 11 players, Tim McCarver as a pinch-hitter for shortstop Ray Busse, and reserve shortstop Mike Tyson. Gibson threw a complete game, one of 13 that season (breaking a string of five straight years of over 20 complete games).

If a game like that were played today, there would have been an abundance of gamesmanship in the form of pinch-hitters and relievers. Back then, the managers turned the game over to, and trusted, their starters.

The Mets gave Seaver all the support he needed in the first inning on Jon Milner’s RBI single and Cleon Jones’ sacrifice fly.

Small crowds, fast games and Hall of Fame pitching match-ups are an indication of how the game has changed over the past four decades.

This game also represented a trend to come that year, and that was the propensity for the Mets playing close games, as they were 31-32 in one-run games that year. One might have thought a World Series team would have a better one-run record, but it must be remembered the Mets barely cracked .500 that year.

It also showed Seaver would have to do much of the heavy lifting himself. And, he could handle the load.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

May 02

Harvey Named NL Pitcher of the Month

MLB: New York Mets at Minnesota Twins

Matt Harvey was named the Pitcher of the Month for April, the first Met to win the honor since R.A. Dickey last did so in June, 2012.

Harvey, 24, went 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA and 46 strikeouts in six April starts. His four wins tied for the National League lead, while his 1.56 ERA is third in the league for the month. His 46 strikeouts are tied for fourth in the league.

Harvey became the first pitcher in since 1900 to win his first four starts of the season, while allowing no more than 10 hits combined in those four starts.

This the second honor for Harvey this season as he was named National League Player of the Week during April 8-14. That was the week when he flirted with a no-hitter through 6.2 innings against the Twins in a frigid Minnesota.

Harvey now stands at 7-5 with a 2.26 ERA in 16 career starts, having given up only 63 hits in 99 2/3 innings.

It’s the first career monthly award for Harvey, who was selected ahead of pitchers such as Pittsburgh’s Jason Grilli, who logged 10 saves and a 0.82 ERA; San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner, who posted a 3-0 mark and 1.55 ERA; and Adam Wainwright, who went 4-2 with a 2.03 ERA.

In what has been a month full of questions, concerns and a losing record to start the season, seeing Harvey win this award is certainly one of the bright spots.

Congrats Matt, may you win many more.

Hey, if he keeps this up he may even win a Cy Young.

Mar 18

Matt Harvey And Travis D’Arnaud Give A Peek At What Is To Come

A few years from now, or perhaps in July, this battery could be a big deal. Matt Harvey and Travis d’Arnaud represent the Mets’ future, and today they provided a glimpse.

Harvey, already in the rotation, gave up two runs in 5.1 innings and was backed by two hits and two runs scored by d’Arnaud in a 3-2 victory today over St. Louis. In an 80-pitch effort, of which 54 were strikes, Harvey struck out six and gave up six hits. Spring training is a progression and today Harvey saw an improvement in his breaking ball.

HARVEY: A strong showing vs. Cardinals

HARVEY: A strong showing vs. Cardinals

Of course, being a perfectionist, he wasn’t totally satisfied.

“I was really happy about my curveball,’’ Harvey told reporters in Jupiter. “Unfortunately, I gave up too many hits in my mind, but overall I’m healthy and feeling good.’’

Harvey made a good impression in ten starts last year with his fastball and composure, but went into the off-season wanting to improve his breaking ball and change-up.

“The biggest thing from last year was not having my curveball,’’ Harvey said. “I threw a lot of good ones and was able to throw it in the dirt when I needed to. That’s a big pitch for me. Having that back is definitely a big plus for me.’’

Harvey has a 2.95 ERA this spring with 24 strikeouts in 18.1 innings. Over a strikeout an inning is a tremendous ratio, but he is smart enough to realize it is better to get an out on one pitch instead of three. Harvey said 200-plus innings is a goal, and to reach it he must go deep into games by keeping his pitch count down.

“I’m starting to learn that a groundball is just as good (as a strikeout),’’ Harvey said. “Going deep into a game is on my mind. If I go seven or eight innings with three strikeouts, that’s seven or eight innings.”

The Mets gave up Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey to get d’Arnaud, who they regarded as the key to the deal. When speaking of the other, each said the pitcher-catcher relationship is a matter of chemistry, and so far they’ve clicked early.

“It’s a matter of working together and getting on the same page,’’ Harvey said. “In three starts with him, it’s almost like we’ve been with each other for a couple of years.’’

D’Arnaud is ticketed for Triple-A Las Vegas. What he liked best about Harvey today was his poise and command.

“I thought he had a tremendous day, especially with this curveball,’’ said d’Arnaud, who will be developing a working relationship with the Mets’ other pitching prospect, Zack Wheeler, soon enough.

Wheeler strained a right oblique muscle, Feb. 27, and pitched for the first time since today in a minor league game.

Wheeler posted on his Twitter account: “ Felt good to get back in a game today. Tossed three innings and one hit. Felt great.’’

METS MUSINGS: Lucas Duda homered and Bobby Parnell pitched a scoreless ninth inning after giving up six runs in his previous three games. … Ruben Tejada’s miserable spring continued with an 0-for-4. He’s now on a 2-for-33 slide. … Also struggling is Brandon Hicks, who struck out three times and has 18 strikeouts in 33 at-bats.

Nov 14

Dickey Leads Cy Young Race; Verlander In AL

CAN DICKEY’S INCREDIBLE SEASON CONTINUE?

Baseball’s annual postseason awards continue this evening with the announcement of the Cy Young winners, a moment that could thrust the Mets into proud, yet potentially embarrassing moment.

Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey could be in position of winning the award and then being traded if a contract extension isn’t reached.

Only the Mets.

NATIONAL LEAGUE: The Mets’ feel good story this summer that was Dickey has a chance to get better in a few hours if he’s able to join Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden as franchise winners of the Cy Young Award.

The man who scaled a mountain last winter climbed another this season when he literally carried the team on his shoulders to go 20-6 with a 2.73 ERA, and he did it with an abdominal tear that required surgery.

Dickey’s competition for the award, Washington’s Gio Gonzalez and Los Angeles’ Clayton Kershaw, pitching for winning teams. Dickey’s Mets were 14 games under .500 with a winning percentage of .457. Dickey’s winning percentage was an amazing .769.

There aren’t enough ways to say how incredible that is.

The Mets didn’t hit for the second half and their bullpen kicked away leads all year. There were nights when he did it all by himself.

“To win 20 on a club with struggles is pretty big,’’ Mets manager Terry Collins said.  “Especially during the times we weren’t hitting, he was still winning games.’’

Dickey’s ERA was second to Kershaw’s 2.53; his 20 wins were second to Gonzalez’s 21; but, he was first in strikeouts (230), innings (233.2), complete games (five), shutouts (three) and quality starts (27).

Other than a knuckleball bias, I can’t see Dickey not winning.

AMERICAN LEAGUE: Things might be more up in the air in the American League between Detroit’s Justin Verlander, Tampa Bay’s David Price and the Angels’ Jered Weaver.

Both Price and Weaver had the type of seasons worth of a Cy Young, with perhaps loftier numbers, but Verlander is the best pitcher in the sport and could become the first repeater since Pedro Martinez  (1999-2000).

Price and Weaver were 20-game winners, but Verlander dominated again and took his team into the playoffs.

My thinking is Verlander is the incumbent who pitched well enough to win again. Until somebody blows away the field, he should get it, because repeating excellence might be the single most difficult thing in sports.

Oct 03

Amazing Season For R.A. Dickey Ends On Painful Note

R.A. Dickey’s Cy Young-worthy season ended last night with a painful revelation: That he’d been pitching with a torn abdominal muscle since April 13, injured in Philadelphia.

Ironically, Dickey will have surgery there Oct. 18.

Dickey called it a dull pain after last night’s no-decision, his eighth of the year, indicating a frustrating lack of run support.

“The pain was fairly significant from time to time,” Dickey told reporters last night in Miami. “We just did a good job of managing that. Whether it was backing off in the bullpen in between starts or getting the treatment that I needed or whatever else I needed to help with that pain, we were able to do it in a way that I was able to perform and not worry about it.”

Dickey finished the season with a 20-6 record and 2.73 ERA and 230 strikeouts while throwing 233.1 innings. That’s not good enough to win any of pitching’s Triple Crown, but good enough to be among the leaders, and even moreso considering he’s pitching on a team 15 games below .500 and with an injury.

One must also factor in opponent’s .226 batting average against him and a WHIP of 1.05. All his significant numbers showed domination on a team far from it.

There’s a school of thought the knuckleball would work against Dickey because many consider it a trick pitch. That nobody else throws it should be an endorsement for him because it is such a difficult pitch to master and one containing a high probability of error.

To wit, Dickey gave up 24 homers, including one last night. That shows he had incredible command of the pitch in the strikezone and they just wouldn’t knuckle for him those times.

There was bias from Tony La Russa in not starting him at the All-Star Game and I wonder how many of the voters might be swayed by that kind of thinking. It shouldn’t, because whether it is a knuckleball, fastball or curve, you still have to control it and Dickey was remarkable in doing it.

Perhaps also working against him is an anti-New York bias, which is often the case in voting such as this. It shouldn’t, but there are always some with phobia’s and Dickey has some significant opposition.

That Dickey did not pitch for a winning team shouldn’t work against him. This isn’t like the MVP voting where team placement in the postseason is usually an overriding factor to consider. There have been several cases of pitchers winning the Cy Young for teams not making the playoffs and Dickey should be one of them.