Phillies Series Wrap-Up and Notes

Notes from the weekend’s Mets-Braves series. Take the jump:

— The good stuff first: Ike Davis is coming to life. He hit a home run in the first inning Sunday off a Cole Hamels’ first-pitch fastball, and later drop-shot a two-strike curveball into center field for a single. Ditto for Lucas Duda, who homered and doubled during Saturday’s game and added two more hits Sunday. Those two hitting, plus a reborn David Wright, make for an imposing middle of the order.

— The best look for the Mets is the blue caps with grey road jerseys.

— Jason Bay recorded his second solid contact of the season on Friday, going oppo-boppo on a ball Cliff Lee left over the plate. Then, because all the cool players were doing it, Bay jammed his ring finger diving back into a base on Saturday and missed Sunday’s game. I’m thinking the Mets should make it mandatory to do that thing where you hold batting gloves in your hands while running the bases.

— Fun with early season numbers: If David Wright goes oh-for in his next 19 at-bats, he’ll still be hitting .300. I’m moving from “guardedly optimistic” to “cautiously optimistic” quite rapidly.

— But for those not guarded or cautious enough: If you’re in the “advanced defensive statistics underrate David Wright’s defense” camp, pay attention to how many of Wright’s throws hit Ike Davis in the chest, and how many throws of opposing third baseman do the same. (This is, how many throws of opposing third basemen hit the opposing first basemen in the chest. Not Ike Davis in the chest.) Davis has saved Wright many an error so far.

— Ruben Tejada, who has averaged at least one making-Mets-fans-happy moment per game, had his first poor game of the season on Sunday, going 0-4 with three strikeouts and a throwing error in the awful eighth inning that I’m going to pretend never happened right after I’m done writing this. Cole Hamels fooled Tejada all game, drawing half-hearted swings and a couple of frustrated fist-shakes between pitches, striking out Tejada all three times. That’s the bad news. The good news is that it’s an occasion of note when this 22-year-old shortstop is fooled by one of the game’s best pitchers.

— Also, I swear Tejada is somehow faster this season. I know it’s not true, but he looks faster running down the line. He might steal 20 bases using the David Wright “go on first movement and hope you guessed right” method.

— R.A. Dickey may not be recognized as such, because he throws a silly pitch, but he’s one of the 15-20 best starting pitchers in baseball. When the knuckleball is working, he’s unhittable. When it’s not, he’s intelligent enough and talented enough to cover with traditional pitches. He did both Friday night and held the Phillies to a single run over seven innings.

— Jon Niese BABIP watch: .212, seven hits allowed in 12.2 innings pitched.

— If an impatient IT guy became a major league pitcher, he’d probably look and act a lot like Vance Worley.

— The only way I can describe Mike Pelfrey’s start: Ineffective in an effective way. He walked two and allowed eight hits, all singles, and the Phillies seemed to begin every inning with runners on first and second with no outs. Pelfrey somehow wiggled his way out of each jam without the help of double plays, allowing just one run over his six innings. I have no idea how. He struggled with his fastball command, but was able to get ahead counts with his curveball (yeah, I know. Really though) and kinda dumb-lucked his way into and out of trouble all day.

— In small sample size theater, Ramon Ramirez, Manny Acosta, and Miguel Batista have been the Mets’ worst relievers through the first two weeks. All three pitched in Sunday’s game, and the results were as expected, although they didn’t get much help from . . .

— The fielders. The Mets are still poor at fielding baseballs. Kirk Nieuwenhuis makes the plays most center fielders make, but I’m not sure how many extra plays he’s going to make. Lucas Duda is a poor major league right fielder. He needs to make a perfect read off the bat or he’s not getting to the ball; he probably cost the Mets two or three hits in this series, and maybe six or seven on the year already. Daniel Murphy had a solid defensive series, and the infield — especially with Davis scooping up everything at first — hasn’t sprung too many leaks. But the outfield without Torres is a sore spot, and the Phillies’ weekend singles parade was assisted by the Mets’ outfielders, who let balls fall in all over Citizens Bank Park’s confined outfield.

— Daniel Muphy likes the point and nod to signal good job to a teammate.

— The Mets outscored the Phillies just 12-10 and were actually out-hit, 31-25, over the three games, but walked away with two wins anyway.

— On the other hand, the Phillies drew just five walks, struck out 20 times, and hit one home run in the series. The Mets drew 11 walks, struck out 26 times, and hit five home runs.

— The Phillies’ offense, sans Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, is just stinky. They hit a ton of singles over the weekend, but that’s because their lineup is full of guys who only hit singles. Jim Thome is their best bat, and he’s a hollowed-out roadside attraction and Philadelphia is a National League, no-DH city. That leaves Hunter Pence as their best everyday hitter. They have old-but-solid-for-their-position hitters at shorstop, catcher, and center field, but they’re light at first, third, left and second. The Phillies end up with two or three above-average batters in any given lineup, and it’s hard to score many runs that way.

— Counterpoint: The Phillies won 102 games last year. 92 wins should take the NL East this season. Even with more singles than Match.com — hi-yo! — I’m not sure the Phillies are 10 games worse, even if Utley and Howard miss the entire season.

— I’m 97% certain Juan Pierre is a time-traveling base ball player from the 1910s, returned to teach us about the deadball era and the merits of wearing your cap under your batting helmet and pantaloons tucked into your socks.

Things Terry Collins did that I liked:

— Started lefthanded hitting Kirk Nieuwenhuis against lefthanded pitching Cole Hamels. We Mostly Mets Podcasters mentioned this briefly during two weeks ago’s podcast: Samehanded hitters (.704 OPS) have had more success against Hamels during his career than righthanded hitters (.677 OPS). This reverse platoon split, as it’s called, is common for pitchers with good changeups — Johan Santana, James Shields, and Edinson Volquez are other examples of changeup-reliant pitchers, and they all fare better against opposite-handed hitters. So if you’re a manager facing Hamels, it might make sense to keep your better lefthanded hitters in the lineup.

Or, in this case, if you’re Terry Collins looking to expose Nieuwenhuis to a lefthanded pitcher, Hamels isn’t a bad first experience for a rookie. Although Nieuwenhuis looked overmatched against Hamels’ changeup, I like the idea.

— Used Mike Nickeas with Mike Pelfrey. Pelfrey struggles to hold runners. Josh Thole struggles to throw out runners. In 140 innings of the Thole-Pelfrey battery, opposing teams are 20-20 stealing bases. So . . . that’s not good. Nickeas has a better arm and is probably a better game caller at this point. Pelfrey needs all the help he can get in those two areas — holding on runners and game calling — so it seems like these two should work well together.

— He was flexible with bullpen roles. Bobby Parnell pitched the eighth inning on Friday, and part of the seventh and the eighth on Saturday. Frank Francisco pitched the ninth on Friday, then Jon Rauch pitched the ninth on Saturday. Collins’ reliever have roles, but Collins seems unafraid to ignore those roles if the matchups dictate otherwise/ if he just feels like it/ if Jim Leyland used to do something similar.

Things Terry Collins did that I disliked:

— Justin Turner batting third Friday night. I know the batting order doesn’t have much effect on how many runs a team scores, but . . . just . . . why? Scott Hairston could bat third, right? Which would A. keep the rest of the batting order from being disrupted and B. would be less weird.

Looking ahead: The Mets play three games in Atlanta. The Braves (5-4) were swept by the Mets to open the season and lost their first four games, but have since won five in a row. Fredi Gonzalez manages the Braves. He’s on the hot seat, but not too hot. Think uncomfortably warm but not unbearable.

The Braves lineup usually looks like this:
CF — Michael Bourn — L
LF — Martin Prado — R
1B — Freddie Freeman — L
C — Brian McCann — L
2B — Dan Uggla — R
3B — Chipper Jones — S
RF — Jason Heyward — L
SS — Tyler Pastornicky — R

Like the Mets, the Braves are stacked with lefty bats. As bad as their offense looked last week, Jason Heyward has since woken up, every morning when his alarm clock goes off. He’s also started hitting. Chipper Jones hits whenever he can be rolled onto the field.

Here’s who’s going to pitch:

  • Dillon Gee faces off against RHP Tommy Hanson on Monday night. Hanson works at three speeds, fastball at 90, slider at 80, and a big curveball at 70.
  • Johan Santana opposes RHP Randall Delgado on Tuesday night. Delgado, a 22-year-old Panamanian righthander, was named the #46 best prospect by Baseball America going into this season. Pitch f/x says he throws a low-90s fastball, along with a slider and changeup.
  • R.A. Dickey sees RHP Jair Jurrjens Wednesday afternoon, a school day special 12:10 start time. Jurrjens has struggled in his first two outings of the season. His velocity has been down since the middle of last year — he missed most of the second half with a knee injury — and it hasn’t come back up yet. At 26 and with Tim Hudson DL’d, Jurrjens is the oldest pitcher in the Braves’ rotation.

— Let’s leave with this video of David Wright’s home run, which I’ll embed whenever the MLB robots allow me to add it:

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5 Comments

Filed under Columns, Mets, Words

5 responses to “Phillies Series Wrap-Up and Notes

  1. Patrick, are you with me in also disliking the overuse so far this young season of Miguel Batista? Isn’t there a better option than Miggy for the last bullpen spot?

    • Patrick Flood

      Yes and then no. Batista has pitched poorly in his handful of outings, and he’s 41, so it’s not unexpected.

      The problem is that both Pedro Beato and D.J. Carrasco are still working their way back from injuries, leaving Chris Schwinden, Jeremy Hefner, and Jeurys Familia the only options on the 40 man roster. I imagine the Mets stick with Batista until Carrasco or Beato is healthy and ready to fill the 7th spot in the pen.

  2. “– Jon Niese BABIP watch: .212” — SSS, but I’m loving being wrong about Jon so far. I hope I’m still wrong come September.

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