- Faith and Fear in Flushing - http://www.faithandfearinflushing.com -

Silent Movie

Sometimes life — by which I mean, “that stuff scheduled around baseball games” — gets in the way.

First there was dinner, then a podcast interview. I moved what I could thanks to the kindness of other folks involved, but only so much movement was possible, and the Mets would have to take a back seat to non-baseball events.

Which was OK, because over the years I’ve gotten pretty good at keeping tabs on what’s happening in that metaphorical back seat. At dinner, I had Gameday tucked between my knees, a little glowing rectangle of tidings from the baseball world. My kid was a beat ahead — I hadn’t known it, but it turns out At Bat notifications go out a second or two before Gameday. So I knew if Joshua grabbed for his phone (he’s still working on subtlety, but so was I at 16), it was time for me to put down my fork, scoot my shoulders back and peek down between my knees for an update.

We got back to my in-laws’ house with the Phillies up 2-1, which was worrisome but hardly seemed insurmountable. Except now I was scheduled to be interviewed for a Star Wars podcast. My answer: ESPN with the sound off.

I could follow what was going on, but I needed about two-thirds of my brain to respect my interviewers and talk Star Wars without sounding like a total idiot. Which seemed unfortunate but turned out to be a kindness, because it meant only one-third of my brain wound up freaking out at the Mets and Mickey Callaway [1].

I actually don’t have a problem with bunting with first and second and nobody out. Or at least I don’t think I do.

The Mets absolutely needed to score at least one run, and the base-out matrix tells you [2] that the bunt slightly elevated their chances of scoring at least one. It’s not a big difference — an additional 6.6 percent — but it’s there, making the call statistically defensible. (Having a minimally competent position player bunt with none out and a runner on first, on the other hand, is not defensible — it actually decreases the odds of scoring at least one run.)

Yes, the Mets had just six outs left to burn and handed the Phils one of them for free. Yes, they were on the road, where conventional wisdom says you play for the win and not the tie. Yes, the base-out matrix also tells you that the bunt cuts the number of runs you’ll score on average in that situation. Yes, those are a fair number of yes-es. But even as someone often driven to frothing rage by bunting, I can squint and understand the decision: tie things up, hold the line, and take another shot at that beleaguered Phillies pen. (Incidentally, Gabe Kapler [3] took Zach Eflin [4] out after 84 pitches despite having given up only three hits, lest you think only our manager does odd things.)

Nor do I have a problem with resting J.D. Davis [5] in the Sunday game, though I came to that conclusion reluctantly and it took me a little longer to get there. Davis looked a little heavy-legged to me in the first two games of the Philly series, and presumably he’ll now be in there for the Monday day game against the Nats.

Opting for Daniel Zamora [6] against Bryce Harper [7], though? That one bugged me. Callaway said Justin Wilson [8] was unavailable, but Wilson hadn’t thrown an unreasonable number of pitches over the last few games, and he’s a far better bet than Zamora to get the inning off to a clean start. Speaking more generally, it’s now September and the Mets are fighting for their postseason lives. If you’re going to push Wilson past his comfort zone, isn’t a 2-2 game where a win brings you to within three of the wild card the time to do that?

(But wait, Jace — didn’t you just have no objection to resting J.D.? Yeah, I did say that, didn’t I? Maybe by tomorrow I’ll have changed my mind again.)

Granted, the Mets could done any number of things to make that eighth inning a sideshow instead of the main event. They could have done more in a bandbox against Eflin, whose campaign hadn’t exactly been stellar so far. Brandon Nimmo [9] could have thrown to the proper base as things unraveled. (Welcome back anyway, Brandon — our smilingest Met did work a seven-pitch walk.) Jeff McNeil [10] could have delivered the hit we so often expect from him (and perhaps have come to take for granted). Jeurys Familia [11] could have not walked the first batter he faced, as he’s done far too often, and could have thrown Scott Kingery [12] something other than the same pitch he’d just thrown him in much the same location [13].

But still, throwing a brand-new callup with a mixed track record out there against Bryce Freaking Harper with everything on the line? Shit, Mickey, really?

As it was, the Cubs and Diamondbacks both lost, which limits the damage somewhat. But it’s another opportunity not seized and another day off the calendar, and all too soon that will be damage enough. Or maybe it already has been, and we just don’t know it yet.