Sep 22

Moving In The Fences Not Answer, Pitching Is

 

Silly me, I thought the object was to win games, not hit home runs.

Sandy Alderson is talking about altering the dimensions at Citi Field in an effort to boost the Mets’ paltry home run total, which is odd considering his background as a fundamentalist. You know, high on-base percentage, advance the runners and cut down on strikeouts.

When he took over his goal was to rebuild the Mets with pitching, speed and defense. Let’s not get teary eyed about Shea Stadium, either. Afterall, how many World Series have the Mets won in their history? Two, and both those teams were built on pitching.

David Wright is on-board with this because, well, afterall, he hasn’t hit for power in two years, but that’s more a product of the beaning by Matt Cain and a poor approach at the plate, not to mention being injured and missing two months this year.

Overall, the Mets have hit 103 homers and given up 141. They’ve been outhomered 87-58 on the road and 54-45 at Citi Field. Those numbers are about right for a team below .500.

Before Alderson tinkers with the dimensions, he should consider what the Mets’ home run production might have been had Wright not missed two months, Ike Davis not been out for most of the season, Carlos Beltran not been traded and Jason Bay hit up to his contract. Take those four factors and the Mets would have closed the homer gap considerably.

But, are home runs really the issue?

The Mets are fifth in the National League with 686 runs scored, which is good enough to contend, but are 13th in runs given up with 712 (4.21 ERA).

Clearly, pitching is the problem, not a lack of power.

Home runs give a team an psychological jolt in that they know they can come back from a deficit, but the boost is even greater from the knowledge its pitching won’t put it in a hole.

It was funny to hear pitching coach Dan Warthen say moving in the fences would help his staff because it would force them to concentrate more. What a joke. If the Mets’ pitchers give up a lot of runs now, wait until the fences come in. Warthen is simply towing the party line. Have his pitchers walk fewer hitters and have him build a bullpen then he can talk. Until then, concentrate on Mike Pelfrey.

And, it’s not as if moving them in will enable the Mets to close the homer gap. The disparity would be roughly the same because the real disparity is in talent.

If the Mets want to do something, it ought to be to get better players, specifically pitchers. Moving in the fences is a gimmick, and teams don’t win with gimmicks. They win with talent.

Ways to Train:  Baseball Tips

If you’re looking to improve your batting average, slice that ERA in half, or simply enhance your ability to interact with your fellow teammates on the field, you’ll want to make sure you’re practicing the right things so that you don’t waste your time on nonsensical efforts.  Fielding, batting, and pitching all require very specific types of training, and while there is certainly overlap (and most players have to know how perform at least two of those 3 functions at any one time), there are also individual items to focus on for each as well.  Below, we’ll cover each of the three aforementioned areas, and what type of training approach you should take for each.

Batting

Swinging at a baseball flying toward your face at nearly 100 miles per hour seems like a fairly easy feat when you’re watching a Mets game or another team performing at the major league level.  That easiness only appears that way because you’re watching masters of batting at the plate, the peak of players available for the game.  For the typical baseball player, connecting the bat to the ball can be quite difficult to master, at least in a way that produces actual hits consistently over time.  The best way to practice batting is through repetition, so head over to the batting cages if you want to face pitch after pitch until your swinging improves.  Pitching machines come in a variety of speed settings, so you can surely find one that’ll pitch to you at the speed you need.

Pitching

Unfortunately, they haven’t developed a baseball batting machine that works quite as well as the pitching version yet, but catching a pitcher’s ball is easier for the average person that throwing a 95 mph fastball.  In order to practice your pitches, find someone who is competent at using a glove, and throw to that person over and over again.  Remember to also switch up your pitches so that you don’t become dominant using only one type of pitch.

Fielding

This article doesn’t have the space to cover the many different fielding positions individually, but on the whole, there are some simple things to keep in mind when standing in the outfield or around the bases.  Make sure you’re using a glove that’s been broken in, first off, so that you’re comfortable using the glove and don’t feel limited in movement.  Since baseball fields don’t have roof cover and many day games are played, you’ll also want to practice fielding balls in direct sunlight, as often times you’ll have to face straight up in order to catch the ball.  So long as you can run and judge a ball accurately as you are moving towards it, you’ll be in good shape on the field.

Jul 17

Mets Chat Room; paging the offense.

Game #91 at Giants

No question, Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito had a lot to do with it, but the Mets’ offense has been in a funk before coming to San Francisco.

The Mets, on a 1-5 slide, have scored just six runs in that span and hit a composite .222. They’ve been shut out three times, including the first two games of this series.

It won’t get any easier tonight against Matt Cain. They will be trying to avoid being shut out in three straight games for the first time since July 25-27, 1992.

Continue reading

May 19

May 19.10: What’s wrong with Wright?/Adding tonight’s lineup.

Pedro Martinez once told me one of his greatest weapons as a pitcher is the fear he instilled in the batter’s mind about being hit.

“If the batter is afraid of being hit, then I can pitch him any way I want,’’ Martinez said.

That’s the way it seems these days for David Wright even though he will never admit it. That’s all right, because what the mouth won’t say body language does, and there have been numerous times when Wright bails out.

We see him more turning away from the inside fastball rather than turning on it and ripping it to left. Once a pitcher knows he has the inside half of the plate, there’s no reason to go to the outside.

The Matt Cain beaning last season has had a residual effect of Wright, and it mostly is mental, which leads to bad physical habits.

I’ve seen Wright pull off pitches he used to hammer, and I see him get too anxious when he does get a ball on the outside half and middle. His swing is long with a noticeable uppercut.

Statistically, Wright has made enough contact to be on a pace to hit 32 homers and drive in 105 runs. He’s also on pace to strike out 223 times and hit for a .262, some 43 points below his career average.

Those aren’t the results Wright is seeking.

“If you don’t see the results a lot, you start pressing a little bit,’’ Wright said last night after his three strikeout game in Atlanta. “It’s tough when somebody is out there playing as poorly as I am right now, costing us both offensively and defensively.’’

Wright was having an off-year in 2009 even before the beaning, which some of it being written off as adjusting to the new stadium and him being on an island in the line-up. There was no Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado or Jose Reyes for much of this year. There’s no Beltran this year, Jason Bay has done nothing to protect Wright and Reyes hasn’t been on his game. The situations are very similar, as are the results.

Wright called baseball a “humbling” game and right now the man is humbled.

It all boils down to this, that regardless of the psychological and statistical theories, if Wright is the player the Mets and he believes himself to be, things have to dramatically change. These reasons, or excuses, for him not hitting must be pushed aside.

It could start with something small, like hitting a sacrifice fly instead of striking out.

Here’s tonight’s line-up”

Jose Reyes, SS
Luis Castillo, 2B
Jason Bay, LF
Ike Davis, 1B
Angel Pagan, CF
Jeff Francoeur, RF
Fernando Tatis, 3B
Henry Blanco, C
RA Dickey, RP

May 07

May 7.10: Chat Room, Game #29 vs. Giants: Limping home.

For the offensively challenged Mets, the Giants aren’t the team they’d like to see this weekend at Citi Field. Not with their pitching anyway.

Jonathan Sanchez against Mike Pelfrey tonight figures to be significant to the Mets on several levels, beginning with questions about the durability of the latter’s shoulder.

Pelfrey complained of tightness after being shelled last Saturday in Philadelphia, but he was cleared after a MRI and light bullpen session Wednesday.

The Mets will miss Matt Cain and Barry Zito this weekend, but will get Tim Lincecum Sunday.
The 17-10 Giants are fresh off a sweep of the Florida Marlins in which their rotation’s ERA was a sparkling 2.57 during the series.

The Mets limp home off a 2-4 road trip a 9-1 homestand. During that homestand Mets pitchers registered a 1.83 ERA and struck out 62-59 innings.

A major storyline during the last homestand was Jerry Manuel juggling the batting order by dropping Jose Reyes to third ahead of Jason Bay.

Despite dismal showings by both Reyes and Bay in Philadelphia and Cincinnati, Manuel will keep that line-up. Bay is hitless in his last 12 at-bats and has one homer and nine RBI on the season.

Here’s the line-up behind Pelfrey:

Angel Pagan, CF
Luis Castillo, 2B
Jose Reyes, SS
Jason Bay, LF
David Wright, 3B
Jeff Francoeur, RF
Ike Davis, 1B
Rod Barajas, C
Mike Pelfrey, RP

Apr 06

April 6.10: Wright steps up for his team.

David Wright spoke in basic, but his smile told a much more complex story.

First inning, Citi Field, yesterday afternoon and Wright was rounding the bases after hitting a two-run, opposite-field homer off Josh Johnson … his smile carrying him as much as his legs.

Wright, who seemingly talked himself out of hitting for power early in the season, and later that lost summer was felled with a concussion after taking a Matt Cain fastball to his head, had just gotten the Mets off to a fast start in turning the page from a disastrous 2009.

Could one swing of the bat set the tone for a summer?

“I don’t put too much stock into home runs,’’ said Wright, who hit only ten of them last year, one of them last Opening Day he was quick to remind when the “tone’’ word surfaced.

Logic says no, that Mets 7, Marlins 1, was simply one game, but the game gave us a glimpse of what could happen when Wright’s team puts it all together for an afternoon. Yesterday was a blue print of what needs to happen.

The Mets need pitching more than power and Johan Santana was superb. And, with their suspect rotation, they need the bullpen late and Fernando Nieve gave them two sterling innings and Francisco Rodriguez was perfect.

Last summer, the Mets hit a major league low 95 homers – the only team not to hit 100 – so their offense must generate runs and take advantage of what is offered. So many opportunities were wasted last year, but yesterday they parlayed three Florida errors into four runs. A gift, yes, but too many times last year they came away empty in similar spots.

The new guys, Gary Matthews, Jason Bay and Rod Barajas had two hits apiece, and Matthews showed he can cover center until Carlos Beltran’s return.

“I think it was an all-around good effort,” Wright said. “We caught the ball, we pitched well and obviously had some timely hitting. You can’t ask for much more than that, first game of the season.’’

Wright is correct, it’s only one game, but it’s better than if it had been one game the other way. For a team coming off two late season collapses and a free-fall summer, that played with frustrating mediocrity this spring, winning sure as hell beats losing.

“By no stretch of the imagination are we where we want to be right now,’’ said manager Jerry Manuel, who looks at winning in a more personal, job-preserving vein. “The important thing is that as you put the pieces into place that you win games.

“We played well. We played all 27 outs.’’

There will be times this summer when they don’t. All teams, even champions, have those moments. And, there will be times this summer when the smile Wright wore yesterday will be a frown.

But, it was finally nice to see him smile.

“It’s good to see David get started,’’ Jeff Francoeur said. “David has to step up. It has to be his team.’’

And, yesterday it was.