I didn’t think we’d be here. Not if I’m being honest. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time (if so, thanks!) you know I’ve voiced my fair share of complaints. Prior to the trade deadline, right after the failed Carlos Gomez trade, I voiced many of those complaints in a rather scathing post that detailed a week from absolute hell for the team. I don’t take back any of those arguments. It made sense at the time. Without the foresight to see the Yoenis Cespedes trade and for him to play so well that people actually argued for one month of baseball to be rewarded with seven months of MVP, my moment of abject despair needed to be voiced if for no other reason than it was that or quit watching baseball. Like Billy Joel, I go to extremes. There’s no middle ground. All or nothing.
There were so many things that went right for this team to overtake the Nationals for first in the East. I won’t list them here. Not now. That’s for another time. After that last Mets win is recorded or the next Nationals loss. The magic number is still one. One is close, but it’s not zero. There is time.
Over the course of an entire season, typically you get a feel for a team. You learn about their strengths, their weaknesses. You figure out who looks lost when the moments are the most stressful and those that have the ability to take a deep breath, focus, and not blow a 7-1 lead in the seventh inning. You also get incredibly angry when managers keep their closer in after a 40 minute rain delay. With this team, their identity has changed so much over the course of the season that it’s like one continual reintroduction: the win 11 games in a row by coming from behind, getting a ton of two out hits, and good pitching. They can’t score at all, lose a bunch, and go from 4 1/2 games up in the East to a season low 4 1/2 games down. They never once dropped below .500, however. That point is important somehow.
In my mind, never once dropping below .500 proves something.
Continuing with this season of change we have a team that couldn’t lose at home, couldnât win on the road, and couldn’t beat anyone in the Central. Now, they can’t win at home, can’t lose on the road, and still haven’t beaten the Pirates or the Cubs. If there’s an NLCS in this team’s future, that might be important. I don’t think it will be, though. While we all bemoan the NL wild card play in game and feel sorry for two teams that have an opportunity to control their own destiny–unlike the good old days when there were two divisions and too damn bad if you didn’t win 99 games when then team in first won 98–the Mets will see Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke (my Mac’s spell checker suggests that be changed to Grinch) possibly three out of five games. Spare me the “oh no, it’s Jake Arrieta” nonsense. Suck it up. Deal with it. Let Josh Harrison crush a game winning homer.
Last night all of this came to my mind in the second inning when Noah Syndergaard (9-7) stepped to the plate with Michael Conforto on third. Both Conforto and Syndergaard were mid-season call-ups, of course. Syndergaard was supposed to be called up this season to get big league experience as the team prepped for a run next season. If he helped the team stay in the wild card hunt, well, that was super. Conforto wasn’t supposed to be here at all. If he were going to be called up, it would be September. The team’s offense was so anemic that a minor leaguer with less than a year of professional experience was a better option than Eric Campbell or an old Michael Cuddyer growing grayer by the day.
What also struck me was that I used to look forward to the pitchers batting in these games. When Steven Matz debuted, I thought I’d lost my mind because the kid could both pitch and rake. Thank goodness. The lineup finally had a someone other than Curtis Granderson that could square up a baseball. Now I don’t not look forward to the pitcher batting. I just don’t think about it. There are other options. The team has a lineup of people that can actually hit. Like a “A Hazy Shade of Winter” states: “Time, see what’s become of me.” Well, springtime brought green fields and professional at-bats.
Syndergaard singled and drove in Conforto with two outs. He had to. It was fait accompli.
On the night, Syndergaard pitched even better. That’s not surprising. Since taking that time off to rest, he’s been unbelievable. He allowed five earned runs in his last start against the Yankees, but like I wrote about in that post it was five earned runs that somehow felt like a shutout. He made a pair of bad pitches and paid for it. Otherwise, he was dominant. Last night, he was dominant. He mowed through the Reds lineup with ease. He did this with a steady diet of 97-mph fastballs, curveballs, and a changeup that made “the always dangerous” Todd Frazier nearly lose his helmet in the second inning striking out. It was beautiful.
In the third, he came up and in to Joey Votto and made one of the best hitters in the game give up. Votto choked up on his bat, crouched down real low, looked like he wanted to swing, and then watched a 98-mph fastball paint the outside corner at the knees. Votto wasn’t swinging at that pitch. Not if it was down the middle. Not if it was on a tee. If Syndergaard continues to pitch inside like that and give batters an up-close view of his fastball, he’ll challenge Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom for staff ace. It’s too early. I know. This is just euphoria talking. Still. A guy that throws that hard with his kind of stuff is special no matter where in the rotation pecking order he decides to settle.
The Mets won last night 12-5. You know that. The team has an 8 1/2 game lead over the Nationals and can do no worse than a tie for the East at this point. A lot has changed over the course of the season, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the idea that the team would contend only if the pitching kept them in it. The names have changed. Zach Wheeler was hurt before the season even started, Dillon Gee was banished to the minors, and Rafael Montero is out for the season. I don’t know if anyone expected three rookies, a guy returning from TJ surgery, a 42-year old, a pouty lefty, and a second year phenom to actually pitch the team into an East title but here we are.
A lot of hope and expectations have been directed towards Syndergaard. From the team, certainly, but the fans mostly.
They We needed him to be good only to give the team some hope for the future. He’s been better than that. Last night he was about as good as anyone could have reasonably hoped for a rookie. Now we’ll expect more. Every time. It’s the price of success for a team in NYC.
On the night, Syndergaard threw 7 2/3 innings and allowed two earned runs on five hits with 11 strikeouts.
Below I’ve listed the particulars for yesterday’s game.
Pitches by Type:
## Pitch Type Count % ## Changeup 25 24.0 ## Curveball 19 18.3 ## Fourseam 45 43.3 ## Sinker 12 11.5 ## Slider 3 2.88
Pitch Type by Inning
## 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 ## Changeup 3 2 3 4 3 3 2 5 ## Curveball 1 3 0 5 5 0 2 3 ## Fourseam 8 8 7 3 3 5 4 7 ## Sinker 1 1 3 0 1 3 1 2 ## Slider 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 0
Pitches by Outcome:
## Changeup Curveball Fourseam Sinker Slider ## Ball 14 3 10 2 1 ## Called Strike 2 6 11 1 0 ## Foul 1 3 11 3 0 ## Foul Tip 0 0 1 0 0 ## In play, no out 0 0 1 2 1 ## In play, out(s) 3 2 4 3 0 ## In play, run(s) 0 1 0 0 0 ## Swinging Strike 5 4 7 1 1
Events by Final Pitch of At-Bat
## Changeup Curveball Fourseam Sinker Slider ## Double 0 0 0 1 0 ## Flyout 0 0 1 0 0 ## Groundout 1 1 1 2 0 ## Home Run 0 1 0 0 0 ## Lineout 1 1 2 1 0 ## Pop Out 1 0 0 0 0 ## Single 0 0 1 1 1 ## Strikeout 1 1 8 0 1
Pitches by Zone Location
## Zone % Out of Zone % O-Swing % Z-Swing % ## 49.04 50.96 37.28 67.29
Note: Zone % is the number of pitches thrown that were considered in the strike zone; Out of Zone is the number of pitches thrown out of the strike zone; and O-Swing % and Z-Swing % relate to those pitches out of the zone and in the zone that were swung at by batters.
Calculations: I calculated the strike zone based upon the formula provided by Mike Fast in a post for Baseball Prospectus. O-Swing % = Swings at Pitches Out of the Zone / Total Pitches Out of the Zone, and Z-Swing % = Swings at Pitches In the Zone / Total Pitches In the Zone. Fangraphs has a great explanation regarding plate discipline, and I encourage you to read about it if you get a chance. After enjoying my site first, of course.
Pitch Types by Zone Location
## Pitch Type In Zone Out of Zone O-Swing % Z-Swing % ## Changeup 4 21 0.286 0.750 ## Curveball 9 10 0.600 0.333 ## Fourseam 31 14 0.143 0.677 ## Sinker 7 5 0.600 0.857 ## Slider 0 3 0.667 NaN
Strikeouts by Description
## Changeup Curveball Fourseam Slider ## Called Strike 0 0 4 0 ## Foul Tip 0 0 1 0 ## Swinging Strike 1 1 3 1
Standard Batting Lines Against Noah Syndergaard
## Batter PA AB H 2B 3B HR K BB HBP SF BA OBP SLG Pitches ## Adam Duvall 3 3 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 9 ## Anthony DeSclafani 2 2 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 8 ## Brandon Phillips 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 7 ## Brennan Boesch 1 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 4.000 9 ## Eugenio Suarez 3 3 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0.333 0.333 0.333 9 ## Jason Bourgeois 4 4 3 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 0.750 0.750 1.000 12 ## Jay Bruce 3 3 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 9 ## Joey Votto 3 3 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 14 ## Todd Frazier 3 3 0 0 0 0 3 0 0 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 17 ## Tucker Barnhart 3 3 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 10
Pitches Velocities & Movement:
## Pitch Type Min Mean Max Mean Hor Mean Vert CRT Mean Hor CRT Mean Vert ## Changeup 88.3 89.1 90.7 -8.251 3.854 -8.269 2.390 ## Curveball 80.5 82.4 88.0 8.573 -0.9489 9.020 -2.325 ## Fourseam 96.0 97.7 99.2 -2.617 9.718 -2.427 8.537 ## Sinker 95.5 97.3 98.8 -6.266 7.479 -6.357 6.232 ## Slider 88.1 88.5 88.8 4.453 -0.7067 4.923 -2.327
Note: Horizontal movement denotes average distance, in inches, from point of release to home plate (+ moves away from a right-handed batter) while vertical movement is average distance, in inches, from release point to home plate. As measured from the back point of home plate, the x-axis (horizontal) runs to the catcher’s right, the y-axis points at the pitcher, and the z-axis (vertical) runs upward.
Note 2: The corrected horizontal and vertical are based upon a paper by Alan M. Nathan from the University of Illinois nd account for the elimination of both gravity and drag. The corrected averages more accurately reflect the true movement of the baseball.
Average (MPH) Velocity for Pitches by Starters Last Night:
Below are the pitch locations by both batter stance (left or right) and by pitch type.
Pitch Location by Stance:
Pitch Location by Pitch Type:
Pitch Locations by Batter: