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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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It Goes On

Monday was one of the better days to be a Mets fan of late.

Monday was also an off-day.

It’s always bad when it gets to this point. It’s worse when this point arrives not in the second half of August, that cruel period that has a way of revealing your maybe-sorta-kinda-.500 club as a 72-win team, but in early June.

Yet that’s where we are, with plenty of season left to play.

It’s a shame, too. Jeremy Hefner was terrific tonight, and I like Hefner — he’s a hard worker and a smart pitcher and the kind of guy that’s easy to root for. Nothing that happened out there was his fault.

I like Bobby Parnell, too. He’s evolved into a solid closer, having entered the evening with just two blown saves, neither of which were his fault. He seems to have gotten over the hyperventilating, MUSTTHROUGHBALLEVENHARDERANDSTRAIGHTER mentality that made him so frustrating as a younger pitcher. More significantly, he’s learned a fiendish knuckle-curve from Jason Isringhausen. One imagines he also learned a few things about the volatile, frustrating life of a late-innings reliever. The story interests me, because it’s an example of something statistics can’t capture: Parnell pretty clearly learned something from his apprenticeship with Izzy (and I mean something beyond the Will to Win or some other lazy sportswriter’s Just So Story), something that’s valuable but defies measurability.

This time, though, what happened out there was definitely Parnell’s fault. He was terrible, and got beaten so quickly and efficiently that you’d have thought his name was Mariano Rivera. If you’ve been a baseball fan for any amount of time, you witness such games and learn your own guy-on-the-couch version of the closer mentality: It happens, there often isn’t any reason for it, so forget about it.

This dose of philosophy doesn’t make games like that suck any less, of course.

Since the word “suck” was trotted out, let’s talk about the larger sense in which Parnell’s failings weren’t his fault: The Mets’ offensive was substantially aided by the Nationals’ ineptitude, and still produced only two runs, leaving their pitchers with zero margin for error. This team has a good hitter who can’t do it alone, a couple of OK hitters who run hot and cold, some bad hitters who should be in the minors or bettering their duck-hunting skills, and various other misfit toys that should not be amassing hundreds of at bats a year.

The Mets are a terrible offensive club. That puts them in a guaranteed hole most nights, forcing their not-bad starters to tiptoe across the high wire and hope their shaky defensive avoids numerous land mines and their so-so bullpen doesn’t implode. Most of the time this difficult-to-execute plan goes less than perfectly, with results that are predictable and depressing. It’s an excellent blueprint for losing games by the bushelful, and that’s what the Mets are doing.

And it’s what they’ll continue to do unless something significant changes. That something has nothing to do with Zack Wheeler, who could fulfill his potential and join his rotation-mates by dropping 3-2 and 2-1 decisions. Do the Mets have the stomach to make those changes? Do the Wilpons have the money to make them matter? Ask me again in another five losses. Or 10. Or 20.

19 comments to It Goes On

  • Jerry

    I use this blog as my Mets therapy. Funny thing is tonight I was not super upset as I would normally have been. I think I know what this team is already so losses as tonight’s don’t rankle me as much as it normally would.

  • Lenny65

    “The Mets are a terrible offensive club.”

    You missed a comma there….”The Mets are a terrible, offensive club.”

  • Steve D

    Let’s put some numbers to this “offensive” franchise. They currently have the worst BA in MLB. As for franchise history, the .225 avg. if over a full season would be the worst in Met History except for 1963 and 1965. Since 1995, it would be the worst by a large margin. There are few hitting prospects on the way except for d’Arnaud. We are totally Wilponzed in the biggest market in the world.

  • Dave

    Is it too late to convert Zach Wheeler into an outfielder?

    • Steve D

      How about converting Ankiel back to a pitcher?…maybe not.

      • Dave

        How much worse could he be than Robert Carson? They want Carson to be a LOOGY…instead he’s a OBAPPY…opponent’s batting practice pitcher.

  • Joe D.

    Hi Jason,

    Parnell is allowed an off night so that doesn’t upset me that much as it does Jordan Zimmerman being noted as to not having his best stuff and still the only way we scored was due to fielding miscues. We score maybe three or four runs in some games and we have a slew of beautifully pitched victories, not tough pitching losses. That is why the young arms we have and are counting do not address the issue of how to make this a better team for the future – hitting and hitting for speed and power. Sandy admitted our minor league system is barren of that. We do not have the resources to resolve it via free agency and we got rid of the players we did have (Beltran, Pagan and Reyes)

    As the Mets hitting began to go down last month, Dave Hudgens did not criticize his approach but rather the players being unable to execute it.

    Bobby Ojeda cites there is no such thing as a set hitting zone as there is a “floating” for each hitter which is also further determined by who is umpiring, etc. Beyond that of the strike zone, with the tying run on base Adam LaRoche wanted to drive the ball and not take a walk. He thus swung at a pitch above the strike zone for ta single. How often do we seen batters uppercut a pitch too low or hack at a pitch up in the eyes or reach out and slice one to the opposite field resulting in a well placed base hit?

    Ojeda went on to point out that establishing a team zone has led to an alarming amount of strike outs, a situation that a team without the hitting ability and power like the Mets cannot allow to happen. Yet there was a more important point he also raised: this type of club does not have the talent to score many runs so setting a hitting zone can only work against them (as we have seen).

    Yes, there is enough blame to go around – most of the players for not being good hitters, the general manager who acquired them and Duda and Davis in particular for their disappointing seasons. But the biggest mistake is the coach continuing to have the team do things HIS WAY instead of concentrating on helping each individual player do things THEIR WAY based on their own talents and mechanics dictating how to hunt for “their” pitch. As we all know, it is not unusual to see hitters make good contact on pitches outside the strike zone if that is what they are comfortable in doing.

    Hudgens cited it was both the team’s batting average on pitches thrown on the corners that made him instruct hitters to lay off those outside that 13 inch radius early in the count, however, it comes down to one simple principle – different “strokes” for different “folks”. And with a team with such weak hitting, players cannot allow pitchers to get ahead of them in the count.

    The other problem is believing a walk is as good as a base hit (OBP). Getting on base via a walk does not have the same impact as making contact since anything could happen with putting a ball in play – as we saw with the Washington defense last night.

    A philosophy that seems good statistically is quite different when it comes to actual application. But we will not see this understanding in a sabermetric-oriented organization that believes it can re-write the art of hitting based by not recognizing that causation does not imply a statistical correlation.

    • March'62

      I have to disagree with you Joe on one point. I believe the philosophy is sound at the beginning of games, that a walk IS as good as a hit. It raises the pitch count which gets you into the other team’s bullpen a little earlier in the game. However, continuing to work the count against a weak one-inning reliever is ridiculous. Those are the guys you’re supposed to be hitting the ball against. The Met lineup isn’t good enough to hit with 2 strikes and they are constantly behind in the count. This limits running opportunities and gives the pitcher confidence along with the opportunity to try for the perfect pitch. The philosophy would work better if you have hitters with a discerning eye for the strike zone. Davis and Duda and Byrd and Tejada et al take pitches right down the middle until there are 2 strikes and then go fishing for the slider in the dirt. So, overall you’re right Joe. There should be different philosophies for the different players but also for the different parts of the game.

      • Joe D.

        Hi March,

        Hitters of course should take pitches when one’s control is off because being behind in the count forces a pitcher to discard deceptive stuff and throw one right in the strike zone – a big advantage for the batter. But that is an outgrowth of the game situation, not something that can be planned for because one cannot put taking pitches in the early innings to work up one’s pitch count ahead of scoring runs and putting a batter at a disadvantage. If one works up his pitch count, it is due to a combination of things – the pitcher not having the stuff to get batters out so easily (enabling batters to foul off two strikes pitches), his control and the batter’s own plate discipline not to swing at balls outside the strike zone while being aggressive at the same time and the ability to foul off pitches. The better hitters, as you say, are apt to be able to get a hit with two strikes more than those in our lineup.

        The only other time batters should purposely take more pitches is when facing an unfamiliar starter and they need time to observe his strengths, weaknesses and pitching habits.

        So it still comes down to everything still being hitter/pitcher dependent and for most batters, being behind in the count causes them to eventually swing from a defensive posture and be more apt to make out instead of getting either a hit or a walk. And, as Ron Darling pointed out with Cliff Lee last month, the hitters had to be aggressive early because the way Lee was throwing, the first strike or so might be the best ones they are going to get.

        The best way to get a starter out of the game is to knock him out of the box.

        • Disagree. The problem isn’t philosophy — if you look across baseball, the best hitters tend to be the ones who take the most pitches and work deep counts. The philosophy is sound, but the students have no talent. Too many of the current Mets are shitty hitters whether the count’s 3-0 or 0-2.

          • Joe D.

            Hi Jason,

            The reason I mentioned that was from what I came across last week doing some research on PPPA since Sandy attributed our dwindling run production to a drop in PPPA.

            Well, I noticed that with at least 150 plate appearances, the Mets had the most players in the top 36 in PPPA with five – Duda (4), Wright (21), Davis (25), Buck (26) and Tejada (36).

            Of that top 36, Washington, Cincinnati and Milwaukee are the only other teams to have as many as four. Cincinnati leads the league in runs scored and OBP. On the other hand, Milwaukee is ninth in both categories. Washington is 12th in scoring and 14th in OBP.

            However, Colorado, which at the time was second in the league in scoring (4th in OBP) only had three in the top 36. St. Louis was third in scoring (2nd in OBP) and had only one player in the top 40 – Matt Carpenter. Same with San Francisco, the 4th highest scoring team (5th in OBP) in the league (Belt, a .250 hitter). Atlanta, the fifth highest scoring team (7th OBP) had but two in the top 40.

            Three of the five teams with the most players in the top 40 in OBP were no better than ninth in run scoring and OBP. St. Louis, which only had one player in the top 40 PPPA happened to be third in scoring and second in OBP.

            There is no logic to follow in that stat or hitting approach – it depends upon the individual and whom he is facing. So many of the top scoring clubs have the fewest players in the top 40 PPPA.

            Neither Milwaukee or Washington can match Cincinnati’s and Colorado’s hitting attack while, St. Louis, San Francisco and Atlanta can come very close to it.

            It is not one getting a better chance of getting a good pitch with more pitches being thrown. The more strikes against a batter, the lower the production goes (can find that chart if you wish).

            This, I am afraid, has also become a systemic problem going down to the lowest minor leagues and could be why Sandy said we do not have any hard hitting outfielders in our system. The Met’s position prospects not being taught to develop into attack hitters.

            Ted Williams described it best on how to “hunt” ones pitch. He would observe the pitcher during his warm up pitches and throwing to others to see what stuff he had, where his pitches would finish up, what tendencies he had to certain type batters, etc. He then went up to the plate with an idea of what he had to hunt for based on the way that particular pitcher was throwing. There was no pre-conceived strategy.

            Sorry if this was a bit long.


  • jersey919

    Husband & I are refugees in NC & have MLBtv = forwhateverreason blacked out since Nationals are our ‘home team’ so we put the laptop between us and just ‘watched’ the play-by-play on MLBtv. We were pleasantly surprised the Mets were ahead BUT OF COURSE WE KNEW BETTER.
    At least last year they were fun to watch for the first half. Wonder if MLBtv will refund any of our subscription?

  • Matt Allen

    The hitting is atrocious. That stat about how bad it is just confirms things. Watching Ike roll over the ball was a painful waste of a spot in the batting order. Also, can we stop running Ankiel out there, as we need to see if Lagares or Kirk can play. Ankiel does not have lightening in a bottle any more than buck does. Finally, watching Spin is more fun than cringing at Ike coming to bat…when will Murphy move to first and like Spin play every day at second?

  • Joe D.

    Hi Jason,

    Did a bit more research as of this evening with PPPA facts for NL batters with at least 200 plate appearances.

    – Of the league’s 15 .300 hitters, only 6 are in the top 40 PPPA.

    – Of the league’s top 40 hitters, only 20 are in the top 40 PPPA.

    – Of the league’s top 40 in PPPA, 8
    of them are hitting .217 or less.

    – Of the eleven who have a 4.0 or higher PPPA, four are hitting.300 and higher while seven are hitting .257 or lower.

    As we can see, there is really no correlation to imply that better hitters see more pitches anymore that the poorer ones see less. It’s only a statistical reflection of the cumulation of each individual’s total amount of plate appearances against every pitcher he faces and quite irrelevant as far as a teaching philosophy.

    • Steve D

      Great research…the best hitter in baseball, Miguel Cabrera supposedly remembers every pitch in every at bat he has had for the last two years at a time and knows how to outsmart pitchers. He can see very subtle changes in a pitcher’s release point and adjust on the spot. He can identify and cover any pitch. I doubt he ever goes to the plate thinking he needs to see a certain amount of pitches. On the other hand, Ike Davis starts every swing way too early regardless of pitch and only can hit a mistake pitch right down the middle.

      • Joe D.

        Thanks Steve,

        Again, it’s a question of individual talent, discipline and intelligence knowing when it is best to take a pitch and not to. Perhaps some confuse PPPA with plate discipline and though more discipline can be learned, it does not infer automatically seeing more pitches – after all, pitchers too get to see that discipline in action and have to adjust the way they approach that hitter as well.

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