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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
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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Game of Inches (Perhaps You've Heard)

Now THAT was an entertaining game.

Late April is still a period where you’re acknowledging first times, and this was one I’d been waiting for: the first exhilarating win that leaves a contact high, so you’re up for hours watching replays and reading recaps and searching for hashtags with a goofy, slightly dazed grin.

But man oh man, it was a game where every single inch mattered.

First up, some respect for Zack Wheeler and Travis d’Arnaud. You could see tonight why Wheeler will be a top-of-the-rotation ace if he can master his mechanics — he has four plus pitches, the best of them a 95 MPH fastball with movement, which makes up for a fair number of mistakes. And d’Arnaud brought Wheeler along like a veteran instead of his contemporary, by turns congratulating him and chiding him. Plus his pitch-framing was, as usual, sublime. The high point was the 1-1 pitch to Adeiny Hechavarria in the sixth, with the Marlins down one with two out, but with runners at first and third and Wheeler having thrown 108 pitches. D’Arnaud called for a fastball on the outside corner, sat motionless as always, and caught the pitch on the black, receiving it like it was an egg. Strike? Maybe, maybe not — but d’Arnaud ensured home-plate ump Andy Fletcher saw it that way. Instead of hitting with a 2-1 count, Hecheverria was looking at 1-2, and Wheeler’s next pitch (his last of the evening) was an evil diving slider dipping below the same spot. Hechavarria had no chance — none.

Incidentally, the 1-2 change-up Gonzalez Germen threw to Jarrod Saltalamacchia with two out in the seventh? Very similar in terms of location, and also perfectly framed by d’Arnaud. Germen took two happy steps off the mound before realizing Fletcher had called it a ball, which I didn’t think it was. Can’t win ‘em all, as we found out two pitches later, when Saltalamacchia slammed a ball over the fence to scuttle Wheeler’s win. Germen then promptly served up another homer to Garrett Jones for a shocking, thoroughly unpleasant Marlins lead.

But hey, every satisfying story throws a shocking reversal at the audience in the final reel, leaving the good guys in mortal peril.

I wouldn’t like to rewind to the beginning of the ninth inning and try to win again, but it worked out.

Lucas Duda dropped a little parachute in front of Christian Yelich for an excuse-me single off Steve Cishek. Terry then asked d’Arnaud to bunt, and then Bobby Abreu sliced a ball into left, but Yelich was perfectly positioned and we were down to our last out. No worries, because Omar Quintanilla continued to make me feel bad by turning in a terrific at-bat, working the count to 3-2 and slicing one a little more sharply than Abreu had. Yelich — who was busy in the ninth — cut it off nicely and had Duda dead to rights, but fell down. Tie game, Quintanilla on first. Up stepped pinch-hitter Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who blasted a ball up the gap in left-center. It looked like it might win the game for the Mets, but  Marcell Ozuna sprinted over and just managed to cut it off on the warning track, forcing Tim Teufel to reluctantly but wisely hold Quintanilla at third.

No matter, because Curtis Granderson was coming up — Curtis Granderson whose skinny batting average and fat contract have not worried Mets fans in the least in the early going, no siree. An optimist might have said Granderson had been hitting in bad luck of late, and that optimist might have been right. Granderson hit an 0-1 offering from Cishek hard on the ground … right to Jones at first.

Correction: right under Jones at first. Ballgame.

Ain’t baseball marvelous sometimes?

20 comments to Game of Inches (Perhaps You’ve Heard)

  • Z

    I’ve been on the record as a card-carrying Terry Collins doubter, but he’s been nailing it so far this season. (Emphasis on “so far,” granted.)

    • Eh, I actually hated having d’Arnaud bunt in the ninth. Originally had a sentence decrying it, but took it out while I dig into the numbers on whether bunting with a runner on first and nobody out increases your chance of scoring at least one run or decreases it.

      I think Terry’s a bit of a Neanderthal strategically, but he seems to be a very good teacher, his players play hard for him and he’s proven he’s no longer the tightly wired madman he was reputed to be when he arrived. So … I dunno.

      For those interested in the bunting question, this is the best thing I’ve found so far. But still looking for better numbers/other opinions.

      http://baseballanalysts.com/archives/2006/07/empirical_analy_1.php

      • metsfaninparadise

        It was the game we were all waiting for, but I was right there with you on the bunt. Just yesterday I read an article on the odds on scoring a run with/without the bunt, which I duly reported on a game thread. Terry is a very poor strategic manager. He mismanages his lineups, his bullpen, and in-game strategy. he is a good teacher and motivator. He’s been the right manager for a rebuilding club but I fear he’d make too many costly mistakes for a contender. The FO obviously values his skills very highly but I think from as early as later this year, or next season at the latest, a different kind of manager will be a necessity. I miss Davey Johnson!

        • Yeah. And the bunt thing is particularly infuriating because it’s FRICKING BASIC MATH. This isn’t WAR or FIP or some head-bending stat that people can fight about it — it’s simple probability, and it’s derived from what actually happened in decades and decades of baseball games.

          I say this based on the assumption that the Baseball Analyst numbers are right. If they’re not, I’ll retract this and be embarrassed. But it’s right there: bunting to get from man on first and nobody out to man on second and one out cuts your chance of scoring at least one run from around 44% to around 42%. Throw in the lineup (No. 7 hitter with no out and man on first vs. No. 8 hitter with one out and man on second) and the odds go from around 35% to around 32%. BAD MOVE.

          Still (and I didn’t look into the numbers), I suspect the best managers probably only add a game or two to their teams’ W-L records and the worst ones probably only subtract a game or two. So like ideal batting orders, probably not worth getting bent out of shape over. But still infuriating.

          BUT yeah, I like Terry as a teacher and a clubhouse manager. And while that’s harder to quantify, it ain’t nothing. And so round and round we go.

          • metsfaninparadise

            Those were the same numbers I saw. I suspect that a bad manager can lose more games for his team than a good one can win. His reluctance to move Ike from cleanup last year or put Duda or a hot hitter there (in general) drives me crazy.

          • Eric

            “No. 7 hitter with no out and man on first vs. No. 8 hitter with one out and man on second”

            The usual probabilities for a run scoring with the no.7 hitter up with no outs and man on 1st vs the no.8 hitter up with 1 out and man on 2nd don’t apply in this case.

            Quintanilla came in for Tejada on a double switch so the no.8 hitter was a pinch-hitter for the pitcher, Bobby Abreu, who became at least the 2nd best hitter on the Mets the moment he was called up. Also, the no.9 hitter was Quintanilla instead of the usual pitcher.

            Now, I would have hit D’Arnaud because his hitting is coming around. That said, I also thought the sacrifice bunt was justified.

            One, Duda is slow and may not score from 1st even with an extra-base hit. (Why Collins didn’t pinch run for Duda and defer the 1st base issue until after tying the game is a good question.)

            Two, of the 3 batters after Duda – D’Arnaud, Abreu, and Quintanilla – Abreu is clearly the best hitter, ie, Abreu was the Mets’ best shot at knocking in Duda.

            So Collins set it up for Duda to be on 2nd with Abreu at bat. When Abreu lined out, Collins probably thought that was ball game. Luckily, Q came through in the clutch and Yelich was knocked over by angels in the outfield.

            Probabilities are worth factoring, but they need to fit the actual situation. Duda isn’t an average-speed runner and Abreu isn’t an average no.8 hitter.

  • Eric

    Speaking of Granderson’s ground ball that Jones didn’t pick, you knew luck was on the Mets side when Murphy had about as shaky a defensive sequence as a 2nd baseman can have in the top of the 9th with every batted ball coming to him, yet the Mets somehow got 3 outs of it. On the 1st out, the ball was past Murph yet somehow caught the tip of his left heel and ricocheted straight to Quintanilla. Murph had no idea where the ball was until he saw it in Quintanilla’s glove.

  • Lou from Georgia

    This was one of those games that on any given day last season, would have had me switch to something else on my MLB.tv slate. But this year’s team has a different vibe, and my gut feelings paid off last night. Quietly pumping my fist as the Mets mobbed Granderson to avoid waking my wife, I agree that these guys seem to love playing for Terry. Fun game. These Mets play with some verve, don’t they?

  • BlackCountryMet

    Couldn’t stay up to watch last night cos had work early today. 1st thing i do when switch phone in morning is check Mets score. Bloody Brilliant. Then watched highlights, even better. Those are games we’d have lost in past seasons. Yeah, we’re a way from being contentders, but, hey, I can now see the light at the end of that tunnel ;-)

  • Extending your cinematic metaphor, Jace: if this game were, say, “Fatal Attraction,” Marcell Ozuna cutting the ball off and holding Quintanilla at third was the equivalent of Glenn Close popping back out of the bathtub with the knife.

    The Anne Archer role was played by Curtis Granderson…

  • Ken K. in NJ

    What was it former Dodger Manager Chuck Dressen said? “Hold ‘em close and I’ll think of something”.

    That quote keeps popping up in my mind, and will continue to do so as long as this lasts, and of course I still have my doubts. But it’s sure fun right now.

  • george

    “But hey, every satisfying story throws a shocking reversal at the audience in the final reel, leaving the good guys in mortal peril.”

    Whoa, excellent!

  • Michael G.

    Jason–One thing about bunting in that situation rather than swinging away– you’re likely not to hit into a double play. Just saying.

    • But to make that argument, we need to figure out the odds of a double play vs. the odds of other outcomes good, bad or neutral.

      I have to run so could only make a half-assed attempt at figuring them out and got nowhere, but I strongly suspect the fear of the double play looms larger than the chances of actually hitting into one.

      Granted, you had Cishek on the mound and when he’s on he generates a lot of ground balls. And if Terry was thinking that, perhaps that’s valid. But I think he was going for the safe, classic call, when the numbers would indicate it was a bad call.

      I just don’t understand the resistance in baseball dugouts to scrutinizing whether sac bunts are really worth it. Again, we’re not talking about sabermetric models that are works in progress; this is just simple probability from real baseball situations….

      • Incidentally, the numbers show that a successful sac bunt with runners on first and second and none out INCREASES the chance of scoring at least one run slightly. So this isn’t a case of “ban the bunt” … just raising the question of what’s most advantageous with a runner on first and nobody out.

      • Eric

        On top of the double-play threat, I believe the decision was about trusting Abreu to tie the game with a slow man in scoring position more than D’Arnaud with a slow man on first or Abreu with a slow man on first.

        With a slow runner and one hitter significantly better than the others coming up in the inning, a sacrifice bunt made sense.

        But, while I’m not going to throw back his pinch-hit double after Q tied the game with 2 outs, I do question that Nieuwenhuis wasn’t used to pinch run for Duda. A fast runner on 1st would have reduced the need to sacrifice the tying run to 2nd.

  • Just wanted to say “thanks” for a having thoroughly entertaining and informative blog for me to read. I’m a very long suffering Mets fan (having first become a fan back in ’79 when I got cable and watched games on WOR) and your blog is a breath of fresh air for this CT native.

    I still have a modest pipe dream of at least a .500 season for the Metropolitans, but even if that pipe dream goes down the tubes, it’s nice to know that there’s at least two Mets blogs that will give me the reality check that I richly deserve.

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