Jacob deGrom

Where’s the Pitching?

Before the series, I detailed how the Mets would win this series because they essentially had three Madison Bumgarners. I have to admit after two games, I have to admit my comparison doesn’t look good. I obsess over everything, and I have to know why. Note to my son, good luck dealing with me buddy. 

When I first looked at everything, I saw that Bumgarner established his fastball and then mixed in his breaking pitches. It’s how the Mets three stud muffins pitched all year long. My eyes told me in Game 1 and 2 that Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom abandoned who they were. 

They didn’t establish the fastball. Instead, they started mixing in the offspeed changes immediately. When they needed to get the big outs in the fifth for deGrom and sixth for Harvey, the Royals had seen everything, and they weren’t surprised by anything. However, I’m a fan. I see a lot of things, and usually what I see is pro-Mets. 

Here is deGrom’s breakdown from the regular season:

  • 96.23 MPH fastball 37.89%
  • 96.44 MPH sinker 18.01%
  • 86.54 MPH change 15.84%
  • 90.03 MPH slider 12.01%
  • 81.63 MPH curve 16.15 %

Here’s deGrom last night:

  • 95.48 MPH fastball 28.72%
  • 95.48 MPH sinker 27.66%
  • 86.53 MPH change 10.64%
  • 87.96 MPH slider 13.83%
  • 81.02 MPH curve 19.15 %

Here’s what I see. He had a slight dip in velocity. He was throwing more lower in the zone and not moving the ball horizontally in the zone. He threw more breaking pitches than changing speeds. In more ways than one, he was a different pitcher. 

Harvey was more successful, but he couldn’t hold a lead. I’m curious what, if anything, he did different than deGrom and/or during the regular season. Here’s Harvey’s regular season:

  • 95.86 MPH fastball 59.56%
  • 88.08 MPH change 11.48%
  • 90.29 MPH slider 14.75%
  • 84.01 MPH curve 14.21%

Here’s his Game 1 start:

  • 94.72 MPH fastball 37.50%
  • 87.56 MPH change 25.00%
  • 89.57 MPH slider 21.25%
  • 83.09 MPH curve 16.25%

Like deGrom, he had a slight velocity dip. He was more drastic in how he pitched. Harvey pretty much threw any pitch at anytime. I’m not sure if that indicates he kept the Royals more off balance and that’s why he went deeper in the game giving up more runs. I’m not sure if Harvey’s secondary pitches are just that much better. 

What I do see is that Harvey and deGrom changed how they pitched. Personally, I think it’s from an over reliance on scouting reports. I’m not a dinosaur. I think you have to scout your opponent to find out how to best beat your opponent. 

However, you also have to scout yourself. You need to find out the things you do well. The Mets didn’t do enough of that in Kansas City, and they suffered. It’s a lesson for Noah Syndergaard. You have to be yourself on the mound. Establish the fastball and mix in your secondary pitches. 

It worked against the Royals last year. It’s worked for Thor this year. It’s how the Mets will turn this series around. 

No Need to Panic

Remember when #PanicCity was a thing?  I do too. It was justified then. When Sandy Alderson bestowed the moniker on Mets fans, here was the previous night’s starting lineup:

  1. Curtis Granderson
  2. Ruben Tejada
  3. Lucas Duda
  4. Michael Cuddyer
  5. Wilmer Flores
  6. Darrell Ceciliani
  7. Kevin Plawecki
  8. Jacob deGrom
  9. Dilson Herrera

Look at that lineup. The number two and five hitters rotate in the eighth spot, at least until Tejada went down. The number three hitter bats fifth. The cleanup hitter is on the bench. The seventh hitter is a backup. The sixth and ninth hitters are not on the playoff roster. 

This is a different team than that one. This team was one out away from winning Game One. They had a bad game against an erratic pitcher, who has pitched well against the Mets in the past. Why must it be more than that?  

We just watched our young pitchers now down an incredible Cubs offense. We know good pitching beats good hitting. It’s the reason the Mets are in the World Series. This isn’t the same old Mets offense. They can actually hit now. 

The Mets are getting a needed day off to collect themselves. They’re going to set things straight. They’re going out tomorrow, and they’re going to play their best game of the year. Then they’ll go out in Game 4 and do the same thing, and so on and so on. 

Ya Gotta Believe!

Cueto Completed Dominant Royals Effort

Honestly, I thought the one run was going to hold up. Lucas Duda had an RBI single in the fourth. Johnny Cueto was starting to get wild. Jacob deGrom was dealing. Then the fifth inning happened. 

When the game started, I lived deGrom’s approach. He established the fastball and used his breaking pitches well. The Royals were making contact, but it wasn’t solid contact. I’m not sure what happened next, but there are some theories:

Whatever it was, it was a slow death for deGrom. The Royals batted around. They had four runs on one leadoff walk and five hits. To put it in perspective, deGrom let up five hits in Game 1 of the NLDS, six hits in Game 5 of the NLDS, and four hits in Game 3 of the NLCS. He practically let up as many hits in that inning as any game this postseason. It certainly leads credence to Adam Rubin’s information when you consider:

Regardless, deGrom didn’t have it in the fifth. Maybe it was Game 5 of the NLDS. Maybe Collins just wanted to outdo yesterday’s ineptitude. In any event, he let the game slip away with Jon Niese ready I the pen. 

Don’t worry, Niese warmed up again after an effective Hansel Robles appearance in the sixth. Collins would go an inning too long with Niese because why not?  The game was within reach at 4-1 going into the bottom of the eighth. It would be out of reach at 7-1 after that. On top of that the Mets probably lost Niese for at least Game 3. I really don’t know what Collins was thinking. 

To make matters worse, the Royals outpitched the Mets in this game. deGrom went five. Cueto pitched a two hit complete game. 

Tonight, the only good news was Duda. He was 2-3 with an RBI. He got the only two hits on the night. I guess the other good news is that the Mets are getting out of town. 

The Shin Guard Needs to be Addressed

Pursuant to Rule 3.01, no player may put any substance on the ball. That includes pine tar. That includes catchers. 

Was it pine tar on Salvador Perez‘s shinguard?  With it being a wet night with the rain, it probably was. It wouldn’t surprise me. Elston Howard used to cut the balls off his shin guard for Whitey Ford. It’s what catchers do for their pitchers. I’m sure he was using it not only to help his pitchers, but also to help his throwing against would be base stealers. 

It is widely assumed that it’s something everyone does. However, as we saw last year with Michael Pineda, you can’t make it obvious. While it wasn’t a giant glob on the neck, it was on the outside of Perez’s equipment. Now that the cameras caught it, it’s obvious. I can understand Terry Collins saying it’s no big deal, but it is. We should also note, it is a big deal. The common denominator here is the pitching coach Dave Eiland. It seems his players have a history of this now. 

The reason is because it’s an opportunity. Perez is important to the Royals. If he’s caught, at a minimum, he had to change his gear. Without the pine tar, the Royals pitching from the starters to the bullpen suffers. More likely, he’s ejected and could face a possible suspension. 

The goal here is to win the World Series. As long as things are on the up and up with Jacob deGrom and/or Travis d’Arnaud, you have to try. The only reason not to try is because you’re doing the same thing. If you don’t try, it’s not doing everything to win. I saw enough of that. 

It’s time to do everything you can do to win. 

Big Game Pitcher

Those 90’s Braves teams were built on pitching. By any measure, the third best pitcher was John Smoltz. However, he was the best postseason pitcher. It’s a big reason why he’s in the Hall of Fame. 

Curt Schilling was on the same staff as Randy Johnson with the 2001 Diamondbacks. He was on the same staff as Pedro Martinez in 2004. Again, Schilling was not as good as those legends. However, when the postseason came the manager have Schilling the ball because he was the better postseason pitcher. 
Tonight, this is what is on the line for Jacob deGrom. He’s been terrific this postseason. He’s 3-0 with a 1.80 ERA, 1.000 WHIP, and a 12.2 K/9. He’s won a deciding Game 5 on the road with nothing. Now, he’s on the verge of making major league history:

You can argue if Matt Harvey or Noah Syndergaard are better. I have. Right now, this isn’t about who’s the better pitcher. It’s about who is the clutch pitcher. Who’s the great postseason pitcher. deGrom is on well on his way to showing he belongs in the class of Smoltz and Schilling. He can cement that status tonight. 

He’s the reason Mets fans should be optimistic. He may be the reason why the Mets may win the World Series. It’s time for him to firmly establish his newly earned status as a Big Game Pitcher. 

Reasons for Optimism

Last night was a tough loss. It was bad from the beginning. Yoenis Cespedes turns a flyball into an inside the park homerun. The Mets blew a two run lead. Yet, the Mets were in position to win Game 1. Unfortunately, Jeurys Familia blew the save with one bad pitch. 

I’ll tell you what. If the Mets are in the same position again tonight, I like the Mets chances. Familia rarely blows a save. After his last blown save, he had 16 saves with a 1.30 ERA and a 1.048 WHIP. Before last night, he was 5/5 in save attempts with a 0.00 ERA and a 0.207 WHIP. He’s not blowing another save. 

Also, keep in mind almost everything had to break right for the Royals to win. They had a routine flyball turn into an inside the park homerun. Matt Harvey had to blow a 3-1 lead. He doesn’t blow leads like that. Twice the Mets picked themselves off the mat and twice got the lead. As much as the Royals fought back, the Mets did as well. 

Another important development was Wilmer Flores was terrific at SS last night. He made all the plays. At one point, he ranged into the hole, made a nice backhand pickup, and made a strong throw to first getting a speedy Alcides Escobar. He’s played this well since Ruben Tejada went down

We also know Michael Cuddyer is not getting three at bats in another World Series game. In fact, it’s possible he won’t get three more at bats in total during the rest of the series. He killed two rallies. He shouldn’t be in a position to kill another rally. 

Also, for all the talk of the Royals bullpen, the Mets bullpen was good. Addison Reed was terrific. Tyler Clippard needed some help from Familia, but the Mets did not allow a leadoff double to lead to a run. Jon Niese was terrific. It looks like the Mets bullpen can hold up in this series. 

Speaking of bullpens, the Royals used Game 4 starter, Chris Young, for three innings. The Mets were over anxious in extra innings against him. However, it can’t hurt to have seen him once. Also, he threw 53 pitches, and he will have to come back on three days rest for Game 4. 

With Johnny Cueto always being a risk for a meltdown, the Royals may need to go to the bullpen early. They will need to do it again in Game 4. The Royals terrific bullpen could quickly become taxed. Their greatest strength can quickly become a liability. 

Finally, as we all know momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher. That starting pitcher is Jacob deGrom. He’s been the Mets ace. In the postseason, he is 3-0 with a 1.80 ERA, 1.000 WHIP, and a 12.2 K/9. The Mets still have the starting pitching edge. The Mets have seen the Royals up close and can adjust their pitching accordingly

All the Mets needed in Kansas City was a split. That’s still on the table. There’s still reason for optimism. They can still win tonight. 

Lets Go Mets!

Sheer TortureĀ 

Coming into this game, neither the Mets nor the Royals had won the first game in the World Series. Last night into this morning, they turned it into an art form. 

Ultimately, the game came down to Chris Young and Bartolo Colon. One was as tall as the other one was wide. While Young was mowing down the Mets, Colon was on a tightrope. He finally fell through allowing a sac fly in the 14th. The winning runner was on base after a Wright error and no challenge. The game was just sheer torture. Prior to this, there was an actual baseball game. 

The game did not start the way Matt Harvey and the Mets wanted. Yoenis Cespedes misplayed a fly ball out into an Alcides Escobar inside the park homerun. The first in the World Series since a player named Mule Haas in the 1929 World Series. 

This would kill most teams, but these Mets have shown themselves to be resilient. Travis d’Arnaud singled in Daniel Murphy in the fourth. Curtis Granderson homered in the fifth. Conforto hit a sac fly scoring Cespedes in the sixth. 

Harvey was good tonight. Not great. Not bad. Just good. He pitched six innings allowing five hits, three earned, two walks, and two strikeouts. He was handed a two run lead in the sixth and couldn’t hold it.

After one run scored, he had a chance to get out of it with Mike Moustakas at the plate. Harvey stuck with the offspeed pitches and was seemingly pitching around him to get to Salvador Perez with first base open. A changeup caught too much of the plate, and Moustakas got the RBI single an inning after he made a diving stop to prevent a possible RBI double. From the seventh inning on, it was a battle of the bullpens. 

Remember, the biggest advantage the Royals had this series was the bullpen and team defense. Kelvin Herrera was lighting up the radar gun. He had two outs in the eight when Juan Lagares came to the plate. He was in the game as a defensive replacement for Michael Conforto. Mets fans collectively groaned. 

Lagares had a terrific at bat fighting off everything Herrera had. He got a single. He then barely stole second, and then this happened:

Actually, no, but it was close.

Wilmer Flores hit a chopper towards Eric Hosmer, who tried to backhand it. It went through him, and the Mets grabbed a 4-3 lead.  In a shock to everyone, Jeurys Familia blew the save on a Alex Gordon to homer in the ninth. It was a rare blown save:

Jon Niese came on to pitch in the game he was born to pitch in. Niese was born the day the Mets won the World Series. Well, he pitched like he was born for the moment. He went three innings holding the Royals at bay. 

As we know it wasn’t enough. After watching it part of me wishes the TV stayed off. 

 

However, the Mets hung in there. They’re resilient, and they have Jacob deGrom tonight. All they need is a split. It’s still on the table. I just hope Collins is better. The Mets generally need to be better. 
They will. They just need to show the same resiliency they’ve shown in this game and all year. 

Uribe Made the World Series Roster?!?!

He’s worked hard to get to this point, and the Mets have rewarded the work by adding Juan Uribe to the World Series roster:

https://twitter.com/stevegelbs/status/659022607690285056

The Case for Uribe

This team turned around with the Uribe trade. He’s been on World Series winners in 2005 and 2010. You’re hoping for a little five year luck there. 

Unlike most teams, the Royals have two lefties in the pen with Danny Duffy and Franklin Morales. Adding Uribe gives the Mets an extra right handed bat off the bench. After Michael Cuddyer the Mets can turn to Uribe. This allows Juan Lagares to be a defensive replacement, and Kevin Plawecki to be ready for a Travis d’Arnaud injury. Don’t worry I tapped on every piece of wood within the nearest square mile after typing that. 

Additionally, it lengthens the bench. In a way, it’s amazing the Mets playing with a 24 man roster never caught up with them. In actuality, there was no way Matt Reynolds was going to play. At least now, the Mets don’t have a dead roster spot. 

I have to say it’s a pretty convincing case. I still don’t like the move. 

The Case Against Uribe

The last time the Mets thought Uribe could go, he exacerbated his chest injury. If that happens in the World Series, the Mets will be burning through 3-4 players in one at bat (original player, Uribe, new batter, defensive replacement). If this happens in Citi Field, this team is in real trouble. 

The next reason is your backup SS is now Kelly Johnson. He’s only played one game at SS, and that was this year. He’s the DH in Game One. If anything happens to Wilmer Flores, the Mets have a terrible choice to make. Do you lose the DH?  Do you move David Wright and his back there?  Do you put Uribe there?  Or my personal favorite:

Yes, the Mets can put Reynolds on the roster for the injured player, but that’s only AFTER the game. If anything happens to Flores, you’re playing a game without a SS [insert Flores isn’t a SS jokes here]. How quickly the Mets have forgotten that Flores almost had to leave Game 4 of the NLCS after hitting his head. 

Furthermore, you’re risking a lot for someone who’s not a terrific hitter. In his playoff career, he has hit .204/.241/.338. As a Met, he has hit .219/.301/.430. As a pinch hitter this year, he has hit .190/.320/.333. He’s 0-4 this year as a DH. It’s just too much to risk for someone that really only plays third and just doesn’t hit the way you think he does. 

Yes, he can change a game and a series with one swing of the bat. It still doesn’t change the fact that this move is extremely risky. I hope he does not only because he’s a Mets fan, but also he’s a big part of this team. 

How Do the Stud Muffins Compare to MadBum?

Let’s face facts. If not for Madison Bumgarner, this would be a title defense for the Royals as opposed to redemption. It took Bumgarner everything he had to help the Giants win the World Series. 

In the 2014 World Series, Bumgarner went 2-0 with 1 save, a 0.43 ERA, 0.476 WHIP, and a 7.3 K/9. He basically said to his teammates, I got three; you just need to get one. In the three games he pitched in, the Royals averaged one run per game. In the other games, the Royals averaged six runs per game. That’s a huge gap. 

With all the noise over the Royals hitting the 95+ MPH pitching well, I wanted to see what Bumgarner threw in that World Series:

  • 93.40 MPH fastball 52.23% of the time
  • 85.04 MPH changeup 3.78% of the time 
  • 76.25 MPH curve 15.12% of the time
  • 87.46 MPH cutter 27.84% of the time
  • 67.20 MPH slow curve 1.03% of the time

This shows not only how to beat the Royals but how to pitch in general. You want to establish the fastball and keep the batters off balance with the offspeed pitches. Let’s see how the Mets stud muffins compare this postseason:

Matt Harvey

  • 95.86 MPH fastball 59.56% of the time
  • 88.08 MPH change 11.48% of the time
  • 90.29 MPH slider 14.75% of the time
  • 84.01 MPH curve 14.21% of the time

Jacob deGrom

  • 96.23 MPH fastball 37.89% of the time
  • 96.44 MPH sinker 18.01% of the time 
  • 86.54 MPH change 15.84% of the time 
  • 90.03 MPH slider 12.01% of the time
  • 81.63 MPH curve 16.15% of the time

Noah Syndergaard

  • 98.66 MPH fastball 26.64% of the time
  • 98.63 MPH sinker 32.31% of the time
  • 89.46 MPH change 16.16% of the time
  • 87.96 MPH slider 8.73% of the time
  • 81.53 MPH curve 16.16% of the time

What does this information tell us?  The Mets three aces pitch similarly to Bumgarner. They establish the fastball and use the same ratio of breaking pitches to keep the hitters off balance. There are two key differences here: (1) Bumgarner is a lefty; and (2) the Royals offense is much improved

However, keep in mind the Royals couldn’t handle Bumgarner at all last year. Now, the Mets are running out three Bumgarners out there. They will pitch in six of the seven games if necessary. 

In the end, I’m not sure how the Royals can keep up their 5.9 runs per postseason game. If they want to beat the Mets they will either have to find a way or pitch much better.  If they don’t do either or both, the Mets will win the World Series. 

Can the Royals Really Hit the Mets Pitching?

It seemed like the immediate narrative after the conclusion of both League Championship Series was the Mets biggest strength may not be a strength in the World Series:

As we all know, the Mets greatest strength is its good young pitching. The Mets pitching throws it hard and over 95 MPH:

  1. Matt Harvey – 96.54 MPH four seamer and 96.11 MPH sinker
  2. Jacob deGrom – 95.81 MPH four seamer and 95.49 MPH sinker
  3. Noah Syndergaard – 97.75 MPH four seamer and 97.78 MPH sinker
  4. Steven Matz 94.57 MPH four seamer
  5. Jeurys Familia 98.21 MPH four seamer and 97.66 MPH sinker 

That’s not good news. Fortunately for the Mets, that’s not the whole story. While the Royals hit high heat well, they do not hit offspeed pitching and breaking balls well. The Royals are only hitting .220 on pitches 87 MPH and below.  The highest percentage of Mets pitches this postseason was in this range. 

We saw it in the NLCS. The Mets did throw their 95+ MPH fastballs, but they also mixed in their offspeed and breaking pitches early. The Mets pitching isn’t great just because of their fastballs. They’re great because they pitch great. 

During the regular season, the Mets ranked second in WHIP with a 1.18 mark. They ranked fourth with a 3.49 K/BB ratio. They ranked fourth with a 3.43 ERA. They allowed the second least amount of walks, and they were sixth with a .243 batting average against. All said and done, if you want to beat the Mets pitching, you have to beat them. They’re not going to walk you, and they’re not giving up many hits. 

This either lines up perfectly for the Royals or it’ll be a complete disaster. The Royals were second to last in walks. They struck out the least amount of times. They were third in team batting average. They were 24th (last in the AL) in homers, but they were 11th in slugging. 

Overall, the Royals put a lot of balls in play against a staff that doesn’t allow a lot of hits. At times like this, I’m reminded of the adage of good pitching beats good hitting. It’s worked for the Mets so far this postseason.