It was almost miraculous. I turned on WOR coming home from watching Darin Gorski throw a masterful two-hit, complete game in Binghamton and the reception was crystal clear. Learning Jacob deGrom had left the game with a 2-0 lead I was elated. First Rafael Montero‘s 10 strikeout performance and now deGrom, both pitching like the frontline starters we hope they will be in back-to-back days.
Then came the bullpen. When Terry Collins went with Jose Valverde I almost drove off the road. Not again. Use anybody else, heck, “I’ll pitch” I pleaded to deaf ears. As the meltdown started Ike Davis was due to bat in the eighth. The Mets announcers went on to explain that over the last three weeks in major league baseball only Yasiel Puig has batted better than Davis. Then I wanted to scream, cry and pull my hair out.
Several times this winter I wrote posts about the folly of the Mets selecting Lucas Duda to play first base over Ike Davis. If the Mets were not going out of the organization to get a first baseman, it was only logical the decision about who should man the duties around the first base bag needed to be based on which guy had the best long-term POTENTIAL Which player in the best of situations had the greatest possibilities of more positive outcomes. The answer to that question was all too clear to me. Forget what either had done as of late (neither did particularly well in 2013,) but to my way of thinking Davis had far greater potential than Duda both offensively and defensively. The Mets sliced away a piece of my baseball soul when they moved Ike. Can anyone tell me if we even know the Player to be Named Later in that trade. If the answer is no, how long is later?
Earlier in the holiday weekend on Saturday I was also in the car, trying to catch patches of the game though the static when Lucas Duda came to the plate with the bases loaded. Everything that is wrong with Duda was exemplified in his at bat. Bases loaded and two outs with a power hitting left-handed batter coming to the plate. What pitch would you be looking for?
During an SNY broadcast this year, I heard Keith Hernandez explaining the basic hitting philosophy he used over his major league career. It was simplistically eloquent. Hernandez said he went to the batter’s box looking for and prepared to hit only one pitch – the fastball. With less than two strikes, Hernandez was ready to drive the FIRST fastball he saw. That’s because it might be the only fastball he saw in that at bat. With two strikes, he still looked fastball and tried to fight off other pitches knowing that in almost every at bat at least one fastball would come.
So, Lucas digs in, and I’m literally praying out loud, “Think fastball.” The first pitch as the Met announcer explained it, “A fastball, knee high down the center of the plate.” Of course, likely looking for a walk, our power hitting first baseman takes the pitch. ARGGHHHHHHHH, I nearly drove out of my lane. Listening to Met broadcasts when driving a car can get dangerous. “Think fastball,” I begged out loud. The second pitch, a fastball on the outside part of the plate.
AAAAAAAARRRRRRRGGHHHH! He watched it go by again.
It was over. Case closed. Opportunity wasted. At 0-2 Duda had entered the statistical graveyard of batting, the spot that generates the lowest batting average and on-base-percentage of any other count. And, Duda watched two fastballs travel through the strike zone without moving his bat off his shoulder to get to 0-2.
Without ever seeing or hearing the game, you know the results as well as I. The mighty Lucas Duda struck out.
I’m not diametrically opposed to the patient, plate discipline approach currently in vogue in baseball. But, like most things in life there is no set rule, it’s a guide line to be situationally applied throughout a baseball contest, not to be used as a bible in every at-bat. That’s especially the case if your a power hitter who steps into the batter’s box with the bases loaded.
When I’m driving in the car and switch on WOR I’m beginning to think maybe I should be rooting for the static.