Oct 22

The Differences Between The Giants And Mets

I hope Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins took notes in Game 1, because the Giants have the blueprint the Mets should be following. So, in comparing the wild-card Giants to the Mets, there’s more than just a 3,000-mile difference:

Solid starting pitching: Madison Bumgarner was lights out, pitching quickly, and with command and composure. This is what the Mets expect from Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler. The rap on Mets pitchers is an inability to put away a hitter and keep damage to a minimum. This especially applies to Jon Niese.

BUMGARNER: It always begins with pitching. (Getty)

BUMGARNER: It always begins with pitching. (Getty)

The game’s turning point came in the third inning when the Royals put runners on second and third with no out, but Bumgarner kept it together and got out of the inning with no damage. Bumgarner also helped himself by starting a double play to get out of the second.

I’m not saying Mets pitchers haven’t done the same, but not consistently.

Bumgarner threw 21 first-pitch strikes to the 26 hitters he faced for an incredible 81 percent efficiency. For all the new wave stats, first pitch strikes percentages are missing. In particular, this is something Wheeler – originally in the Giants’ organization – must refine his game.

Who is to say the Giants didn’t know this when they traded him to the Mets for Carlos Beltran?

Relief pitching: The bullpen has long been part of the Giants’ success, with the pitchers and how manager Bruce Bochy manages them. There’s nobody better.

Alderson has tried to build a pen since he came here, and this season is the closest he’s come. Now, it is up to Collins to slot in Bobby Parnell, Jeurys Familia and Jenrry Mejia in the right roles.

Aggressive base running/productive at-bats: The Royals’ speed drew considerable pre-Series attention, but the tone for the game was set in the first inning when the Giants executed what I consider one of the most exciting plays in baseball.

Gregor Blanco singled and tagged up and advanced on Joe Panik’s fly ball, making it a productive out. The dimensions at Citi Field are such that this is something the Mets should be more aware of doing.

So, instead of fooling around with the dimensions and moving in the fences, the Mets would be better off tailoring their offense with speed, aggressive base running and timely hitting to complement their young pitching.

In Game 1, the Giants were 5-for-12 with RISP, a situation in which the Mets are weak. Timely hitting begins with being patient and working the count. Last night, of the 43 hitters the Giants sent to the plate, 20 took a first-pitch ball or put the ball in play.

Management expertise: Bochy is the best manager in baseball. This is the fourth time he’s taken a team to the World Series, and win-or-lose, he’s worthy of the Hall of Fame.

He gives his players defined roles and they buy in. I can’t imagine Bochy fooling around by juggling Wilmer Flores and Ruben Tejada at shortstop, or with the myriad of left fielders.

It is Alderson’s responsibility to bring in the right players. The Giants bettered themselves with Jake Peavy and Hunter Pence; in recent years the Mets brought in Curtis Granderson and Frank Francisco.

Big difference.

Bochy once left Barry Zito off a playoff roster and put Tim Lincecum in the bullpen. There were no waves. Conversely, Matt Harvey, although it was determined he wouldn’t pitch this season, complained about where he would rehab and that he wanted to pitch this summer.

Neither Alderson nor Collins forcefully laid down the law with Harvey, and prior to that Jordany Valdespin. The Mets have had through the years a line of headaches such as Francisco Rodriguez and Ike Davis (complaining about going to the minor leagues and refusing to adjust his hitting approach).

I can’t imagine the Giants putting up with a non-productive player for as long as the Mets did with Davis.

The Mets also didn’t give Angel Pagan a legitimate chance in center field. He’s hurt now, but on a four-year contract with the Giants.

Sabean has been the Giants’ general manager since 1997. Conversely, Alderson is the fourth general manager have had in that span.

Of course, Sabean has been given ownership’s blessing to build the team as he sees fit. Alderson doesn’t have that leeway.

The Mets won 79 games this season, while San Francisco won 88. Nine more wins over six months doesn’t seem like much.

Let’s see if the Mets can close that gap.

Oct 24

Game 1 Of World Series Overcomes Bad Call, But Raises Issues

Maybe Jon Lester cheated in Game 1; maybe he did not. It makes for an interesting fodder and falls in line as to what is reviewable and what is not regarding expanded instant replay beginning next season.

Overturning a call by replay such as Dana DeMuth’s horrible one last night is not allowable within the current structure, and the Cardinals would have a legitimate beef had the umpires convened to watch the replay on a monitor.

Getting it right. (Getty)

Getting it right. (Getty)

However, one umpire – in this case, five – overturning a bad call is permitted and the umpires absolutely handled it properly in agreeing with Boston manager John Farrell for DeMuth to get a second opinion. Umpires should be applauded for seeking help. They shouldn’t think they are being shown up, but that the crew is working in concert.

Raised from last night’s first inning is the method of a manager challenging a call. Currently, the challenges are limited, but that’s not an efficient or fair format.

Whether a central monitoring system established in New York similar to how the NHL’s format is in Toronto, or have a fifth umpire in the press box who can buzz down to the crew chief seems preferable than the manager challenging from the dugout.

For one thing, an executive monitoring upstairs has an immediate picture of the play and can contact the crew chief. The manager, in this case Farrell, instantly knew it was a bad decision and bolted from the dugout as if he had a jetpack.

All plays won’t be that way and it is easy to envision a manager challenging based on his player’s reaction to the call. Players aren’t always right, they often go by emotion, and challenges could be wasted early. Presumably, this could be offset with a direct link to the dugout from the press box, similar to how a NFL coach is buzzed to throw the challenge flag.

Having an immediate set of fifth eyes would likely take less time and improve the flow of the game. Major League Baseball is always moaning about game length and this method is better. Presumably, under the new system everything but balls and strikes would be under review, which is the way to go.

Today’s umpiring is flawed, but I don’t know if it is any worse than what we had 10, 20 years ago. However, the technology is so much better and points out things missed in earlier decades. That should lead to a system that in the interest of fairness, the camera/review format should be the same for a Tuesday night June game in Milwaukee as it is in the World Series. Granted, there are more cameras for the Series, but having a designated number of cameras in specific locations can alleviate this.

More cameras and establishing a better review system costs money, but I don’t want to hear it. This is a multi-billion a year industry. There’s plenty of money to invest in getting it right.

What would have been fascinating was to mike the umpires the way FOX did Joe West in the ALCS. To hear that conversation between the five umpires in Game 1 would have been priceless television.

Fortunately, they got the call right, which is the ultimate objective. I can only imagine DeMuth assumed Pete Kozma made the transfer and was only watching his feet. That leads to a fair criticism about umpiring and assuming the outcome of a play. DeMuth was in position and looking at the call; he just didn’t make the proper decision.

If the intent is to get the play right, then why is there such thing as a neighborhood play, which surfaced earlier in the playoffs? If it is allowed in the interest of player safety, then modify the sliding rules. We also see too many instances of a runner called out simply because a throw beat him to the bag. These calls frequently show an umpire out of position.

But, and this is most important: Baseball is more black-and-white than other sports. Either a player is safe or he is out; it is either a strike or it is not.

That purity should be emphasized in spring training as it is in the World Series. I’m tired of hearing the phrase, “you just don’t make that call in the World Series,’’ just as I was Sunday when I heard “you don’t make that call in overtime on a 56-yard field goal attempt.”

Why the hell not? Out or safe; fair or foul. Just get it right. If it is a rule, then apply it equally regardless of situation.

That should also include balls and strikes, as the idea of each umpire having his own interpretation of the rules is ridiculous. This isn’t figure skating in the Olympics when the Russian judge screws the American skater with prejudice. The rulebook lists a definition of what is a strike. Just get it right.

Luckily, regardless of how the play was ruled, Mike Napoli doubled in enough runs to where it wouldn’t matter to the helpless Cardinals. The Cardinals played a terrible game, and fortunately for all involved, DeMuth’s call added drama but did not decide the outcome.

As for whether Lester used a substance on the ball or not won’t be known. Under expanded replay we could only hope the observer in the press box would have the authority to order the crew chief to examine a pitcher’s glove if he sees something on the monitor. Presumably, the umpires will have their eyes on Lester when he pitches next in St. Louis.

The fans have the right to believe what they see on the field is legitimate, which is why MLB has such stiff penalties on gambling and performance-enhancing-drugs. There should be a similarity when it comes to on-the-field cheating. Doctoring the ball isn’t gamesmanship, it is cheating and the penalty should be severe.

 

 

 

 

Apr 15

Can’t anybody here play this game?

My title is one of Casey Stengel’s most memorable quotes and is applicable to how this season has started for the Mets. Yesterday’s doubleheader loss, coming hours after Terry Collins’ closed doors meeting, was a study in bad baseball.

CASEY: What would he think of this?

It made me wonder what would have happened had the Mets not focused on fundamentals during spring training.

From the outfield defense – what were you thinking Scott Hairston? – to Brad Emaus butchering a  ball at second, to the Daniel Murphy’s inexplicable baserunning, to the lack of clutch hitting and pitching, the day was a complete washout.

They were competitive, but still lost. The Mets have not learned to put away a team – they lead in every game of the four games they lost to Colorado – from either an offensive or pitching perspective.

Talent-wise, we knew going into the season that the Mets didn’t have enough to compete with Philadelphia and Atlanta in the NL East, but I, like most, bought into Collins’ emphasis on fundamentals.

It just hasn’t happened, and had they been able to execute fundamentally on defense and at the plate, they might have overcome some of their pitching weaknesses. It hasn’t happened that way.

What was Murphy thinking trying to go to third from second on a ball hit in front of him? He clearly lost track of the outs. How hard is it to count to three? Hairston’s effort on that fly ball was weak. A veteran like that needs to show more.

Bottom line: Game 1 never should have come down to David Wright’s fly ball to the warning track.

As much as baseball is a team sport, it is also an individual one. Before each pitch, a player should know what his responsibilities should be. And, prior to each at-bat, he should know what his objective should be, such has hitting a fly ball or advancing a runner.

These guys have coaches to remind them, but their objective is something they should have long since known since high school ball. It’s not Collins or the coaches, it is them. They should know to hit a ground ball to the right side with a runner on second and no outs. They should know not to chase on 2-0 at the plate. They should know where to position themselves and what base to throw to. They should know whether or not they should run depending on where the ball is hit.

And, at the plate, they should have better command of the strikezone and know how to work a walk. Again, not enough walks and too many strikeouts.

These are major league players and they should show more beyond their skill set.

And, I haven’t begun to think about the pitching, which has been atrocious. By the way, my confidence level on D.J. Carrasco tonight in Atlanta isn’t good. When Tuesday’s game was rained out and the Mets knew they had a doubleheader yesterday, and definitely when Chris Young was pushed back, they should have held back one of their minor league starters.

The bullpen was taxed already, even prior to the doubleheader, and realistically they will go deep into their pen with Carrasco pitching (considering he’s one of the relievers). Also, with Mike Pelfrey not showing much so far and Young’s arm tender, they will use everybody this weekend.

Not a good job anticipating by Sandy Alderson and Collins.

However, after yesterday’s lost afternoon, the one thing that separates itself from the bad baseball was the use of Francisco Rodriguez in the second game. With the game out of reach, and knowing Rodriguez’s contractual status of needing 55 completed games for his $17.5 million to kick in, why would the Mets let him finish a game in a non-save situation?

It made no sense whatsoever.

 

 

 

 

Jun 10

Mets Chat Room: A long day at Citi Field.

Maybe the Mets will score for him today. The Mets, winners of nine straight home games, haven’t been supportive of their ace.

Games #59/60 vs. Padres

Johan Santana has been marvelous, throwing 15 straight scoreless innings over his last two starts, but having nothing to show for it. In his last start, he threw seven scoreless at San Diego, but the Mets went on to lose 5-1 in 11 innings.

Santana’s ERA over his last five games is 0.74, but the Mets have given him two or fewer runs in four of them. Santana has four victories, but with a little support he could have eight. Easy.

Santana will start Game 1 of the day-night doubleheader at Citi Field and Jon Niese will start the second game.

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