Mets Merized Online » Christopher Zaccherio Mon, 20 Feb 2017 05:56:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Z Files: Matt Harvey’s Subtle Pitching Flaw Wed, 25 May 2016 14:00:17 +0000 matt harvey

During last night’s SNY broadcast, SNY showed Matt Harvey’s opposing batting average broken down by number of times through the opposing team’s lineup:

First time through the lineup:  .243

Second time through the lineup:  .284

Third time through the lineup:  .510

This pattern continued last night as the Washington Nationals hit two home runs their second time through the lineup and three additional runs the third time through the lineup knocking Harvey out after five innings.

Matt Harvey

During SNY’s broadcast, Ron Darling explained a mechanical flaw seen in Harvey’s throwing motion.  In 2015, after Harvey broke his pitching hand from his glove to begin his windup, Harvey had his forearm, wrist and hand all in a straight line toward the ground and eventually point back at second base as his pitching arm continued the windup.  In 2016, as Harvey breaks his throwing hand from his glove and begins his arm swing/arm motion, Harvey cup’s or curls his throwing wrist back toward first base.

This wrist curl is an excess or unnecessary movement.  The more unnecessary movements in Harvey’s throwing arm and hand, the higher level of difficulty for Harvey to repeat or gain a consistent release point.  Release point is the main dictator of pitch command, velocity and movement.

As Darling noted in the broadcast, this is a bad habit Harvey gained at some point during the off-season or spring training.  Generally, pitchers mechanical bad habits tend to get worse during the course of a game as a pitchers focus diverts further into the game and their body tires making it difficult to adjustment a bad habit in the middle of a game.

During last night’s fourth and fifth inning, eighteen of Harvey’s thirty-eight pitches were poorly commanded either belt-high or down the middle third of home plate.  Additionally, Harvey’s fastball velocity decreased from consistently throwing 95 to 96 mph in the first inning to 92 to 94 mph by the fifth inning.

Stat of the Night

Last season, Harvey’s ERA during the first seventy-five pitches of a game was 2.86 compared with a 2.23 ERA during pitch seventy-six and beyond meaning Harvey improved as games progressed.

In 2016, Harvey’s ERA during the first seventy-five pitches of a game is 5.04 compared with an 11.42 ERA during pitch seventy-six and beyond.

Follow Chris Zaccherio on Twitter @ziography for more Mets insight going beyond statistics.

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The Z Files: Bartolo Colon’s Secret Sauce Tue, 24 May 2016 16:31:37 +0000 bartolo colon

The New York Mets maintained their Major League team lead in home runs belting three more (David Wright, Yoenis Cespedes and Neil Walker) during their 7-1 victory over the Washington Nationals.

During the bottom of the first inning, the Nationals strung together three straight singles, two of which were seeing eye ground ball singles through the infield, leading to the Nationals one run.  From that point on, Bartolo Colon showed pitching in its simplest form.

Bartolo Colon (W, 4-3) 7.0 IP, 1 R, 5 H, 2 SO, 2 BB

What many consider a “boring” approach or way of completing a task, usually ends up the most efficent approach or way of completing a task.

Unlike Noah Syndergaard throwing a repertoire of three electrifying pitches leading to high strikeout totals, Colon leans on his two-seam and four-seam fastball strike throwing ability to get ahead of batters and pitch to contact (hopefully weak contact).

Colon did a tremendous job getting ahead of hitters throwing 77.8% first pitch strikes, well above the league average at approximately 65%.  Overall, Colon threw 71.1% strikes.  But the most outrageous aspect of Colon’s approach was his fastball usage at 91%, meaning 91% of all Colon’s pitches thrown were fastballs (either two-seam or four-seam fastballs).  Comparatively, starting MLB pitchers average between 60% to 70% fastball usages.  Personally, I can’t remember a MLB pitcher throwing above 75% fastballs (other than Colon).

How is he the only pitcher in MLB able to succeed without throwing almost any secondary pitches?

Colon is able to do what only Mariano Rivera could do before him, use two different types of fastballs to set up each other.  Rivera threw almost exclusively four-seam fastball and a cut-fastball also known as a cutter whereas Colon uses a four-seam and two-seam fastball but the same principles apply.  Simply, Colon is able to create enough variance in movement, velocity and location between his four-seam and two-seam fastball while keeping similar spin with the baseball making it extremely difficult for opposing hitters to pick up and adjust to each type of fastball.

The best example was during Jayson Werth’s at-bat against Colon during the fourth inning.  Colon threw an 87 mph two-seamer starting thigh high over the middle of home plate and moving sharply low and on the inside corner for a called strike one.  Colon proceeded throwing an 88 mph two-seamer starting off the outside corner of home plate and moving sharply low and on the outside corner for strike two.  Colon finished Werth inducing him to swing and miss on a 92 mph four-seam fastball going on a straight trajectory up and on the outside corner for strike three.

Was 91% fastballs a bit much?  Probably a tad excessive.  Will Colon dominate every start using this approach?  No.  But he will consistently produce above average results which are the most desirable results for a fifth starter in a rotation.

On a side note, Colon threw only 90 pitches in seven innings and would have gone back out for the eighth inning if not for his stiff back.

Mets Third Inning Success

Another game with three home runs is great but more impressive is the Mets stringing together five consecutive hits and a sacrifice fly during their five run third inning.

For weeks, I have bashed the Mets offense for their inability to manufacture runs which is well documented ranked highest percentage of runs scored through home runs and lowest batting average with runners in scoring position in MLB.  The third inning is hope the Mets hitters are adjusting their approach with men on base to focus more on higher contact percentage rather than power.

Stat of the Night:

Today is May 24th, 2016.  Happy 43rd Birthday Bartolo aka Big Sexy!

Follow Chris Zaccherio on Twitter @ziography for more Mets insight going beyond statistics.

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The Z Files: Syndergaard Shows Importance of Pitch Selection Mon, 23 May 2016 16:24:46 +0000 noah syndergaard 2

Noah Syndergaard helped complete the New York Mets three game sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers using a pitching strategy Matt Harvey successfully utilized last season.

Noah Syndergaard (W, 5-2) 7.0 IP, 1 R, 6 H, 11 SO, 0 BB

Syndergaard’s overall transition in pitch selection has been obvious, using his newly found sharp, high velocity slider 18% more while throwing his curveball 12% less compared to last season.  Overlooked is Syndergaard’s dedication in establishing his fastball early in games, setting up his off-speed pitches later in games.

Here is Syndergaard’s pitch breakdown per inning from last night’s performance (FB = Fastball, CH = Changeup, SL = Slider, CB = Curveball):

1st Inning:  17 FB (73.9%), 0 CH (0.0%), 2 SL (8.7%), 4 CB (17.4%) = 23

2nd Inning:  12 FB (70.6%), 0 CH (0.0%), 2 SL (11.8%), 3 CB (17.6%) = 17

3rd Inning:  11 FB (64.7%), 1 CH (5.9%), 1 SL (5.9%), 4 CB (23.5%) = 17

4th Inning:  8 FB (50.0%), 4 CH (25.0%), 2 SL (12.5%), 2 CB (12.5%) = 16

5th Inning:  6 FB (66.6%), 2 CH (22.2%), 0 SL (0.0%), 1 CB (11.1%) = 9

6th Inning:  5 FB (35.7%), 5 CH (35.7%), 1 SL (7.1%), 3 CB (21.4%) = 14

7th Inning:  7 FB (53.8%), 3 CH (23.1%), 2 SL (15.4%), 1 CB (7.7%) = 13

During the first three innings or first two at-bats for the core of the Brewers lineup, Syndergaard challenged Brewers hitters with his fastball knowing it will take them a few times through the batting order to adjust to his 99 mph fastball.

This creates Brewers hitters to come up for their third and four at-bats against Syndergaard expecting and ready to hit his fastball.  However at this point in the game, Syndergaard changes and mixes his pitch selection.

Although Syndergaard’s slider and curveball usage remain relatively steady, his fastball usage decreases from 70.2% during the first three innings to 50.0% during the last four innings.  Conversely, Syndergaard’s changeup usage increases from 1.8% during the first three innings to 26.9% during the last four innings.

This caught Brewers hitters off guard, keeping them off-balance in the batter’s box translating to less aggressive swings and weaker contact.  Additionally, by saving his changeup until the third and fourth time through the Brewers lineup, Syndergaard’s changeup is not only a pitch Brewers hitters aren’t expecting but have not seen.  This allows Syndergaard’s changeup to look even more deceiving and devastating, helping create the extraordinary 40.0% miss/whiff rate with his changeup last night.

This culminated in Syndergaard allowing his second lowest hard contact % of the season at 18.8% and his second highest soft contact % of the season at 31.3%.

David Wright’s Arm

On a routine ground ball during the top of the sixth, David Wright threw a bullet across the infield to throw out Ryan Braun at first base.  So far this season, Wright has transitioned into almost exclusively throwing sidearm and even submarine depending on the play, both of which are generally more erratic leading to greater fielding errors.  It’s great to see Wright making strong overhand.

Although Wright’s spinal stenosis condition cannot go away, this throw may signal a few consecutive days off every month is a viable temporary solution to help keep Wright on the field through the end of this season.

Stat of the Night

SNY showed statistics I’ve been preaching about the past few weeks:  The Mets offense produces the highest percentage of their runs through home runs in MLB (55% of all runs scored produced through home runs).  The Mets have by far the lowest batting average with runners in scoring position in MLB (.210).  This trend continued this series as the Mets offense produced over 54.5% of their runs via the long ball (6 of 11 runs scored).

Follow Chris Zaccherio on Twitter @ziography for more Mets insight going beyond statistics.

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The Z Files: The Core of Syndergaard’s Success Goes Beyond Velocity And Movement Wed, 18 May 2016 17:59:41 +0000 noah syndergaard

Noah Syndergaard continues dominating the National East, holding the Washington Nationals offense to five base runners allowing the New York Mets two solo home runs to carry the Mets to a 2-0 victory.

Syndergaard’s combination of velocity and sharp movement on all four of his pitches is officially a spectacle many MLB hitters have never seen before.  But Syndergaard’s command of these four pitches is the glue between his great repertoire of pitches and high level of success.

Noah Syndergaard (W, 4-2) 7.0 IP, 0 R, 5 H, 10 SO, 0 BB

Syndergaard showed tremendous command with each of his four pitches above a 60% strike rate, living low in the zone throwing 67 of 98 total pitches (68.3%) located approximately at the opposing hitters groin level and below.

How does this help Syndergaard?

Keeping pitches low in the hitting zone helps Syndergaard induce ground balls early in at-bats.  Since ground balls are generally hit softer than fly balls, this creates easier outs for the Mets defense.  Since hitters are swinging earlier in the at-bat more often, this helps reduce pitch count due to fewer deep at-bats.  Additionally, this reduces walk rates due to fewer three-ball counts (deep at-bats).

Last night, this sequence was crystal clear.  Syndergaard produced a 57.1% ground ball rate comparing to the league average of 44% with most ground ball pitchers are considered to have above 50% rate.  This translated to his highest soft contact percentage of the season at 35.7%, meaning 35.7% of balls in play from Nationals hitters were considered “soft contact” or poorly hit.  Additionally, Syndergaard produced his second lowest hard contact percentage of the season at 21.4%.

Finally, Syndergaard surrendered no walks, getting to only two three-ball counts.

Mets Offense Hunting Fastballs

Great seeing Curtis Granderson swinging at a first pitch fastball for his seventh home run of the season.  The SNY broadcast showed an interesting stat: Granderson has the lowest first-pitch swing percentage in the National League (min. 60 PA) but when swinging at the first pitch he is 2-for-5 with 2 home runs.

Against MLB pitchers, especially top tier pitchers like Max Scherzer, the deeper an opposing hitter gets in an at-bat, the greater chance the at-bat ends in an out.

Mets hitters showed a much better approach than their road trip, aggressively swinging at 50% of Scherzer’s first and second pitch fastballs (13 of 26).  Additionally, Mets hitters only took a fastball for a called strike in 0-0 or 1-0 counts in six of their twenty-five at-bats against Scherzer (24% of at-bats).

Conversely, in the Mets May 5th game against the San Diego Padres Colin Rea (Rea carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning) Mets hitters took a fastball for a called strike in 0-0 or 1-0 counts in fourteen of their twenty-eight at-bats against Rea (50% of at-bats).

This comparison is proof Mets hitters need to continue swinging early and often at fastballs.

Reed to Familia

The bullpen didn’t surrender a base runner as Addison Reed seamlessly passed the baseball to Jeurys Familia for Familia’s thirteenth save this season.

Max Scherzer Dominated by Home Runs

There’s an interesting article on FanGraphs by Paul Sporer explaining Scherzer’s struggles allowing home runs off fastballs.  Since the start of 2015, Scherzer is throwing 5% more fastballs in the strike zone with fastballs in the upper half of the strike zone up 11% compared to 2013-2014 seasons.  This translates to a 4.7% home run rate (HR/Batters faced) since July 12th 2015, the highest home run rate in MLB.

Stat of the Night

Syndergaard is 8th in MLB with a 56.6% ground ball rate.

Follow Chris Zaccherio on Twitter @ziography for more Mets insight going beyond statistics.

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The Z Files: Mets Hitters Need Better Approach At The Plate Thu, 12 May 2016 16:44:27 +0000 lucas duda

Noah Syndergaard went back to little league accounting for all of the New York Mets four runs batted in and narrowly throwing a complete game.  Unfortunately, the Mets had viable opportunities to score more runs but continue searching for timely base hits.

Situational Hitting

Situational hitting is the adjustment or strategy in a batters approach in an at-bat with men on base to either advance base runners to better the base runners opportunity to score – or score base runners.  The most common forms of situational hitting involve bunting, ground balls, sacrifice flies, drawing walks, attempts at hitting the ball to specific areas of the field, and of course base-hits.

Recently, I have showed stats and explained the issue behind the negative correlation between the Mets reliance on home runs and low team batting average with runners in scoring position compared to World Series champions.

As stated yesterday, the Mets are last in MLB in batting average with runners in scoring position.  Conversely, thirteen of the last fifteen World Series champions finished in the top 15 during the regular season in batting average with runners in scoring position.

Last night, the Mets continued their struggles hitting 1-for-9 with two walks with runners in scoring position.  Let’s rate the nine opportunities to determine the severity of the situation (1.0 is terrible – 5.0 excellent):

  1. Second inning, no out, base runners on first and second:  Neil Walker fly’s-out to center field. Rating 2.5  Walker got behind in the count early in the at-bat forcing him to take a defensive swing.  Walker did put the ball in play but he needs to pull the ball into right field in this situation to allow the possibility Cespedes advances to third on a fly ball.
  2. Second inning, one out, base runners on first and third (Yoenis Cespedes stole third base):  Eric Campbell hits fielder’s choice ground ball to Corey Seager who throws Cespedes out at home plate.  Rating 2.0  Campbell needs to elevate the baseball into the outfield with less than two outs for a hit or to allow Cespedes to tag up and score.  Additionally, a ground ball gives the Dodgers an opportunity at an inning ending double play.  The reason for not rating a 1 is at least Campbell put the ball in play opening opportunity for fielding error or a soft base hit.
  3. Second inning, two outs, base runners on first and third:  Rene Rivera strikes out swinging.  Rating 1.1  Only outcome worse is striking out looking.
  4. Fifth inning, no out, base runners on first and second:  Noah Syndergaard hits three-run home run.  Rating 5.0  Optimal outcome.
  5. Sixth inning, no out, base runners on second and third:  Eric Campbell pops out to first baseman Adrian GonzalezRating 1.2  The only objective for Campbell is hitting the baseball anywhere except for a pop up or a ground ball to the pitcher.  Almost any other contact scores a run.
  6. Sixth inning, one out, bases loaded:  Syndergaard strikes out swinging.  Unrated  I can’t get myself to give a 1.1 rating for a pitcher up against a 96 mph fastball who has already hit two home runs in the game.
  7. Sixth inning, two outs, bases loaded:  Curtis Granderson strikes out swinging.  Rating 1.1  Again, Only outcome worse is striking out looking.
  8. Seventh inning, one out, base runners on second and third:  Lucas Duda flies out to left field.  Rating 3.0  Duda did an average job, elevating the baseball into the outfield and only needed a few more feet to allow Michael Conforto to score from third.
  9. Seventh inning, two outs, bases loaded:  Campbell strikes out swinging.  Rating 1.1  Only outcome worse is striking out looking.  Please make contact.  Challenge the defense to get outs.

Thankfully, the Mets have exceptional pitching and a surprisingly impressive defensive alignment helping them stay atop the National League East division.

Stat of the Night

The Mets pitching staff has a commanding lead in team pitching WAR ranking first in MLB at 7.6.  Division rival Washington National are second at 6.2. See FanGraphs for a full explanation of WAR.

Follow Chris Zaccherio on Twitter @ziography for more Mets insight going beyond statistics.


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The Z Files: Robles’ Fateful Pitch To Trayce Thompson Wed, 11 May 2016 16:15:05 +0000 USP MLB: NEW YORK METS AT LOS ANGELES DODGERS S BBN USA CA

Jacob deGrom settled in after allowing two runs on two doubles and a sacrifice fly during the first inning but the New York Mets eventually lost 3-2 on a walk-off home run by Trayce Thompson off Hansel Robles in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Hansel Robles Pitch Selection & Movement

Prior to Thompson’s home run, Robles was attacking the strike zone with two-seam fastballs at 96 mph and hard sliders at 87 mph, throwing 12 of his previous 14 pitches for strikes (outstanding 85.7% strike rate).  Robles gave up the home run on a 1-2 count with a 96 mph belt-high fastball over the middle of home plate.

Robles should have thrown a 96 mph fastball on the inside corner, preferably not for a strike in on Thompson’s hands, to discomfort Thompson in the batter’s box.  This would setup the slider catcher Kevin Plawecki originally called, low and on the outside corner from Thompson which Robles shook off.

Regardless of pitch selection or game plan, Robles home run pitch was simply a poorly located 96 mph fastball which ran from belt-high on the outside corner to belt-high over the middle of the plate.

One issue with Robles given his current arm slot and release point is gripping his fastball as a four-seam fastball forces his fastball to run like a two-seam fastball.  Normally, more movement is positive.  The issue is his fastball runs from left to right like a two-seam fastball but doesn’t sink or drop down in the zone like a two-seamer.  This makes Robles’ fastball tougher to command and creates less room for error when he lacks fastball command.

Simply, if Robles was able to sink his fastball against Thompson, the location of the pitch would have been approximately knee-high resulting in soft contact off the end of Thompson’s bat.

I’m not sure changing Robles grip to a true two-seam fastball in the middle of the season is possible but this is something Robles should work on during bullpen sessions with pitching coach Dan Warthen.  Over the course of the season, it would allow Robles ground ball rate to go up, which besides strikeouts per nine innings to walks per nine innings ratio, is the most important stat for a relief pitcher.

Jacob deGrom (ND) 7.0 IP, 2 R, 8 H, 4 SO, 0 BB

DeGrom continued attacking hitters amassing a 68.9% overall strike rate, keeping his fastball and off-speed pitches low in the strike zone.  Additionally, he showed excellent command with his off-speed pitches which created thirteen of his twenty-one outs and accounted for zero of his eight base hits allowed.

Despite pitching low in the strike zone, some of his pitches, predominately his fastballs, are moving back over the middle third of home plate much like his last start against the San Diego Padres.  DeGrom keeping his fastball on the corners of home plate during last season is the difference between last year’s Cy Young caliber dominance and this year’s all-star caliber success.

Juan Lagares Leading Off

Lagares had four strong at-bats, Lining-out in the first inning, battling back to a full 3-2 count in the second inning and two base hits later in the game.  Great teams have great depth.  Probability shows us one of the outfielders will eventually need a few consecutive games off or a 15-day DL stint making it great to see the Mets have competent backups.

Stat of the Night

Once again, Mets hitters threaten opposing pitchers all night but can’t get timely hits going 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position.  The Mets are tied for last in MLB (30th in MLB) in batting average with runners in scoring position at .211.

Since 2001, these are how the World Series champions finished the regular season in batting average with runners in scoring position:

  1. Thirteen of fifteen ranked in the top 15 in MLB
  2. Nine of fifteen ranked in the top 10 in MLB
  3. Five of fifteen ranked in the top 5 in MLB
  4. Three of fifteen led MLB

Follow Chris Zaccherio on Twitter @ziography for more Mets insight going beyond statistics.


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The Z Files: 5 Takeaways From Mets 5-3 Loss to Padres Fri, 06 May 2016 15:30:45 +0000 yoenis cespedes hr

San Diego Padres starter Colin Rea took a no-hitter against the New York Mets into the seventh with two outs until Yoenis Cespedes hit a single opposite the defensive shift.  The Mets hit two home runs in the ninth inning but fell short, losing 5-3.

Here are five takeaways from last night’s loss.

1.  Mets Hitters Need to Get the Bat Off the Shoulder

Colin Rea isn’t a flame thrower blowing 96 mph fastballs past hitters.  Rea doesn’t have a devastating sinker/two-seam fastball inducing groundball after groundball.  So, why were Mets hitters taking so many four-seam and two-seam fastballs early in at-bats?

During Rea’s eight innings pitched, Mets hitters took a fastball for a called strike in 0-0 or 1-0 counts in fourteen of their twenty-eight at-bats against Rea.  In other words, in 50% of the Mets at-bats against Rea, they had viable fastballs to swing at to produce a good opportunity for a hit but instead, the Mets hitters didn’t even attempt a swing!

So far this season, Rea does have an issue throwing strikes as his walks per nine rate is average of 3.57 is considered poor by FanGraphs MLB standards but MLB hitters have to be prepared to aggressively swing at fastballs early in an at-bat regardless of a pitchers past control issues.

2.  Jacob deGrom (L, 3-1) 5.0 IP, 3 R, 8 H, 2 SO, 1 BB

Jacob deGrom’s outing is simple to breakdown.  He produced a strong overall strike rate of 68% and a strong 27.8% whiff/miss rate with his slider.  Unfortunately, a few of his pitches caught the middle third of home plate resulting in Wil Myers’ home run, Brett Wallace’s double, Derek Norris’ double and Rea’s RBI single.

Two positives from deGrom’s outing were:

  1. Although his pitches caught too much of the plate, he kept his pitches down in the strike zone (thigh-high and below)
  2. His fastball velocity was up from previous starts, averaging 94.2 mph while maxing at 96.4

3.  Logan Verrett 2.0 IP, 2 R, 1 ER, 3 H, 3 SO, 0 BB

Logan Verrett didn’t pitch as poorly as his stat line may suggest.  He made two mistakes on two-strike pitches, hanging a slider to Norris ending up in the left field bleachers and a hanging curveball to Jemile Weeks for a seeing eye single.  All other pitches showed good command low in the strike zone.

In case you missed it, the second run scored on a bloop single to left field.  Michael Conforto dove to catch the ball but instead deflected it twenty feet from himself.  He rushed his throw into second base in an effort to throw out the batter runner causing a throwing error allowing the unearned run to score.

4.  Ninth Inning Homers

Curtis Granderson hit a man-bomb to center.  Yoenis Cespedes hit an absolute laser into the left field bleachers.

5.  Kevin Plawecki Ground Out Every At-Bat

Catcher Kevin Plawecki looks over matched every time he steps into the batter’s box.

According to FanGraphs, Plawecki is 14th in MLB in groundball percentage at 62.1%, meaning 62.1% of all his contact made ends up on the ground (minimum 40 plate appearances).

Stat of the Night

Via SNY broadcast – the Mets pitching staff has allowed the third fewest base runners in MLB but have allowed the most stolen bases.

Follow Chris Zaccherio on Twitter @ziography for more Mets insight going beyond statistics.


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The Z Files: How Steven Matz Dominated the Atlanta Braves Thu, 05 May 2016 17:00:23 +0000 steven matz

The New York Mets made a cool, rainy day look beautiful, hitting four home runs en route to a 8-0 shellacking of the last place Atlanta Braves.  The Mets hit more home runs during this series than the Braves have all season.

Steven Matz fell short of his first complete game shutout, dominating Braves hitters with his fastball all day.

Steven Matz (W, 4-1) 7.2 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 8 SO, 0 BB

Matz showed the blueprint on pitching against a poor hitting team.  Attack!  Attack!  Attack!  Simply, Matz continually attacked the strike zone, particularly with fastballs, allowing the Braves Four-A (AAAA) hitters to get themselves out, with quite a few strikeouts along the way.

Here are three stats highlighting Matz’s presence in the strike zone:

  1. Matz threw first pitch strikes to 19 of the 26 Braves batters faced, an above average 73% first pitch strike rate
  2. Matz threw 78 of his 106 pitches for strikes, an above average overall strike rate of 73%
  3. Matz got to only one three ball count out of the 26 Braves batters faced.  Tyler Flowers made it to a full 3-2 count during the fifth inning, eventually striking out on a called strike three.

Let’s focus on number one, the importance of first pitch strikes.  The main reason first pitch strikes are important is summed up in one statistic.  Braves hitters are batting .418 in 1-0 counts compared to an abominable .282 batting average in 0-1 counts.

Some analyst will de-emphasize the importance of first pitch strikes, stating one pitch in the at-bat doesn’t define the outcome of an at-bat and will show some teams do not have as drastic batting splits as the Braves example above.

These analyst miss the understanding each pitch sets up the next pitch.  Getting ahead 0-1 allows the pitcher freedom to throw more off-speed pitches or throw a fastball an inch or two off the outside corner in hopes it’s either incorrectly called a strike or the hitter chases the pitch out of the strike zone.  Pitchers at a 1-0 count are forced to attack the strike zone because no pitcher ever wants to get to a 2-0 count.  Ever.  Currently, there are twelve MLB teams with slugging percentages over .700 in 2-0 counts.  For a point of comparison, Chris Carter leads the MLB in overall slugging percentage at .681.

Additionally, getting to 0-1 rather than 1-0, puts the pitcher ahead in the count and closer to a strikeout than a walk.  This season, Braves hitters are batting .297 when ahead in the count (1-0, 2-0, 2-1 etc.) but a mere .164 when behind in the count (0-1, 0-2, 1-2 etc.).

Matz One Negative

Simply, Matz left some of his off-speed pitches up in the strike zone, around belt-high.  These pitches, particularly his changeup, will be exploited against better hitting teams.

Stats of the Night

Last night, the Mets led MLB in hard contact percentage at 59.1%.

Currently this season, Michael Conforto leads MLB in hard contact percentage at 50.8%.  Who’s second?  David Wright at 49.0%

Follow Chris Zaccherio on Twitter @ziography for more Mets insight going beyond statistics.

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The Z Files: A Closer Look At Matt Harvey’s Loss To Braves Wed, 04 May 2016 15:34:38 +0000 matt harvey dugout

The New York Mets hitters amassed only a single hit in their 3-0 loss to the Atlanta Braves.  As noted below, there is little to worry about with the Mets batting lineup but the same cannot be said for Matt Harvey.

Matt Harvey (L, 2-4) 3 R, 8 H, 4 SO, 2 BB

There were two main reasons Harvey was successful last season:

  1. His ability to throw a strike in any count, especially behind in the count, with any of his four pitches in his repertoire
  2. His ability to throw a fastball with at an average 95.9 mph

Both allow Harvey the leniency to fall behind in the count and still create outs, even strikeouts because hitters can’t predict which pitch is going to be thrown to them.  Additionally, opposing hitters can’t wait for 96 mph fastballs because they are extremely difficult to hit well even when a hitter knows a fastball is coming.

Last night, Harvey threw a solid 68% of his pitches for strikes yesterday and threw a decent 66% first pitch strikes.  However, Harvey struggled throwing off-speed pitches for strikes (63% strike rate) especially when behind in the count.  Harvey found himself behind in two-ball counts during 11 of the 27 Braves batters faced (40% of batters faced).  Both Mallex Smith’s home run and A.J. Pierzynski’s RBI double came behind in the count 2-1 and 2-0 respectively.

Harvey’s inability to throw off-speed pitches for strikes when behind in the count forced him into throwing predictable fastballs.

Last season, even when Harvey’s off-speed pitches weren’t finding the strike zone, he was able to amp his fastball velocity up to 97 or 98 mph to “blow” his fastball past opposing hitters.  Last night, Harvey’s average fastball velocity registered at 93.8 mph, maxing out just above 95 mph.  My friends always ask me, how can a small two miles per hour difference is fastball greatly effect a pitchers outcome?

Any professional or even collegiate hitters can tell you that after the 94 or 95 mph threshold, each mph after that is significantly harder than the previous mph.  In simple terms, seeing a 96 mph is noticeably different than seeing a 95 mph fastball, seeing 97 mph fastball is noticeably different than seeing 96 mph fastball and so on and so forth.  Conversely, seeing a 93 mph fastball isn’t that much different than a 92 mph fastball.

Last night was a cool, rainy evening early in the season, making it difficult to command off-speed pitches and throwing his max fastball velocity but something to pay attention to.

Stat of the Night

Based on FanGraphs team statistics from all of last night’s Major League games, the Mets had the fifth highest hard contact percentage at 45.5% coupled with by far the lowest BABIP (batting average with balls in play) at .045.  Additionally, the Mets struck out only five times and had the second highest contact percentage in MLB last night at 88.9%.  This proves Mets hitters had bad luck at the plate last night.

Follow Chris Zaccherio on Twitter @ziography for more Mets insight going beyond statistics.


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The Z Files: Two Takeaways From Mets 5-3 Victory Over Reds Tue, 26 Apr 2016 17:20:09 +0000 walker conforto

The New York Mets powered their way to another victory beating the Cincinnati Reds 5-3.  Logan Verrett snaked the win advancing his 2016 record to 2-0 after Antonio Bastardo allowed the tying run to score in the top of the seventh.

Here are the two takeaways from last night’s victory.

Michael Conforto:  3-for-3, 3 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB

SNY did a great job during last night’s telecast showing Conforto’s swing in slow motion instant replay.  The instant replay helped show two important swing attributes:

  1. Conforto’s hands go directly from their load position (right behind and below his back shoulder) down into the strike zone.  We all learned in second grade math class the shortest way between two points is a straight line.  That’s essentially what Conforto is accomplishing, getting his hands to the baseball as quick as possible.  This allows Conforto to keep his swing quick and compact resulting in Conforto’s ability to allow the baseball to get as close to him as possible (also known as allowing the baseball to get deeper) to him before he needs to begin his swing.  This allows him more time to correctly recognize pitch type and pitch location resulting in a greater chance at making solid contact, drawing more walks and reducing strikeouts.
  2. As he begins his swing, Conforto’s hands and hips trigger in perfect sync.  Normally, Major League hitters begin their swing by triggering either their hands or hips first.  Hitters triggering their hips first are known as rotational hitters, normally hitting for more power and less contact.  Hitters triggering their hands first are known as linear hitters, normally hitting for higher batting average, higher contact rates but less power.  Traditionally, the players able to trigger their hips and hands in-sync are the best hitters in baseball (See Ken Griffey Jr. and Barry Bonds).

Although this is a hot streak, Conforto will finish the year with a .315-.325 batting average, over 25 home runs and 45 to 50 doubles.

noah syndergaard

Noah Syndergaard:  6.2 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 9 SO, 0 BB

Syndergaard’s continues attacking hitters with his full repertoire of pitches, going to a three ball count only three times.  He overpowered hitters with is 98.6 mph average fastball and baffled hitters with his sharp slider at 92.4 mph accounting for an extraordinary 30.8% miss/whiff rate.

However, Syndergaard struggled controlling the Reds running game, allowing five stolen bases.  Even if we give Syndergaard a pass on Billy Hamilton’s two stolen bases since he is the best base-stealer in MLB, the leads and jumps of the other Reds base runners were far too good.

Ron Darling noted in one of Syndergaard’s earlier starts that his full leg kick and longer stride makes it difficult for Syndergaard to keep faster base runner’s from stealing bases at a high rate.  This came to fruition on Monday night.

Syndergaard did well varying his timing between pitches and throwing over to make it tougher for Reds base runners to predict the exact moment Syndergaard will start his motion towards home plate.  This helps reduce Reds base runners gaining good jumps to steal bases and reduces the size of Reds base runners leads.  Even with that, the Reds base runners had little issue stealing bases.

Realistically, Syndergaard feeling comfortable with his motion from the stretch is more important than rushing his pitching motion to home plate which will compromise his pitching accuracy and overall success.

Hopefully Syndergaard continues to dominate so the number of overall base runners is low but this is something to pay attention to going forward.  In close games, the difference in the final score is often due to an additional 90 feet taken by a base runner to second or third base, allowing them to score on a sacrifice fly or single to the outfield when they would have otherwise been stranded on first or second base.

Stat of the Night:

Staying with the main theme of last week’s article “Mets Live & Die With the Long Ball”, the Mets were 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position, scoring all of their runs through home runs.  I love home runs but they won’t come every night.  The Mets need to get more timely singles and doubles to get their baserunners in.

Follow Chris Zaccherio on Twitter @ziography for more Mets insight going beyond statistics.


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The Z Files: Mets Live & Die With the Long Ball Wed, 20 Apr 2016 17:25:59 +0000 cespedes conforto

The New York Mets took the lead in the top of the first inning for the fifth straight game setting the tone early in their 11-1 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies.  The Mets hitters looked extremely comfortable in the batter’s box, taking aggressive swings at good pitches all game.  The result was eleven runs all scoring through six home runs.  After hitting only two home runs in the first eight games of this season, the Mets have hit seventeen home runs over their last five.

Every good team hits home runs, especially timely home runs.  However, great teams don’t need a lot of home runs.  Great teams live by the old adage, get on, get over and get in meaning, get on base, advance on the base paths and score.

Since the wild card playoff system began in 1995, only two of twenty-one World Series championship teams finished in the top four in home runs during the regular season (2008 Phillies, 2009 New York Yankees).  However, during the same span of time, eight of twenty-one World Series championship teams finished in the top four in on-base percentage during the regular season, including thirteen champions finishing in the top ten.

Home runs are an exciting, quick confidence boost for a batting lineup.  The only problem for a home run reliant team is home runs come in bunches.  Between facing MLB pitching every night and the natural difficulty in hitting a home run, sustaining home runs every game and the corresponding confidence is extremely difficult.

Conversely, a lineup with high on-base percentage forces the pitcher to uncomfortably pitch from the stretch more often and drives up pitch count which helps get the opposing starting pitcher out of the game earlier and into the opposing team’s weaker bullpen pitchers.

Currently, the Mets rank sixth in Major League Baseball with nineteen home runs, two behind the third ranked teams.  However, the Mets rank twenty-first in MLB in on-base percentage, twentieth in batting average and have scored 56.6% of their total runs through home runs (30 of 53 runs).

Comparatively, the St. Louis Cardinals rank third in MLB with twenty-one home runs.  However, the Cardinals are second in MLB in on-base percentage, fifth in batting average and have scored 44.2% of their total runs through home runs (38 of 86 runs).

Additionally, the Mets are twenty-fourth in contact % (percent on which contact was made) and twenty-ninth on O-Contact % (pitches on which contact was made on pitches outside the strike zone) according to FanGraphs.  What does that even mean?

A low contact percentage creates less balls in play resulting in a lower opportunity for the Mets to get hits and a greater challenge advancing runners along the bases.  The O-Contact % shows the Mets aren’t hitting bad pitches, particularly two-strike pitches well, a staple of many great teams (see 2015 Royals, recent Cardinals and Giants teams).  Making high contact percentages with pitches outside the strike zone lowers strikeout rates, forcing opposing pitchers to throw more pitches and puts additional pressure on the fielders to complete more defensive outs.

Additionally, in the nine games the Mets hit one home run or less, they averaged 2.88 runs per game.  In the other four games hitting two or more home runs, the Mets averaged 6.75 runs per game.  Obviously, runs per game will be higher when two or more home runs are hit but the disparity shouldn’t be as high as almost four runs or 2.34 times as high.

I’m not suggesting Mets hitters can’t manufacture runs through singles, extra base hits and taking extra bases (not only by steals but going first to third on singles).  I’m not suggesting it’s time to panic.  I’m suggesting it’s something to pay attention to as the season progresses.

Follow Chris Zaccherio on Twitter @ziography for more Mets insight going beyond statistics.


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The Z Files: Logan Verrett Scouting Report Thu, 14 Apr 2016 17:00:07 +0000 Logan, Verrett

Stat Line:  6 IP, 0 R, 3 H, 6 SO, 2 BB

In the New York Mets 2-1 victory over the Miami Marlins, Logan Verrett showed why he would be in the starting rotation for twenty-nine of thirty Major League teams.  Verrett attacks opposing lineups differently than our big three power pitches, looking to induce poor contact early in at-bats rather than inducing a high whiff/miss and strikeout rates.

Logan Verrett continues showing more than scouts prepared us for, exhibiting an above average breaking ball while keeping four pitches low in the strike zone.


Verrett’s breaking ball (slider and curveball) is a viable MLB strikeout pitch, inducing a strong 16.6% whiff/miss rate (swing and miss rate).  His breaking ball, particularly his slider, shows sharp, late, downward movement and has enough velocity to deceive the hitter into thinking the pitch is a four-seam fastball.  The reason behind defining it as a breaking ball is because it’s tough to decipher the difference between his slider and curveball.

Verrett’s four-seam fastball sits 90 to 93 mph while his two-seam fastball, also referred to as a sinker, dials in at 88 to 92 mph.  At times, Verrett’s two-seam fastball/sinker seemed to move 6 to 10 inches with sharp 10 to 5 downward movement (think of 10 to 5 on a clock).  Although he didn’t show consistent fastball command on the corners of home plate, Verrett kept his pitches between ankle and thigh high.

Staying low in the strike zone with two pitches having sharp downward movement makes it nearly impossible for opposing hitters to lift the baseball for hard hits and extra base hits.

Verrett’s Four Keys to Success

Verrett has to focus on four aspects of pitching to be successful with a fastball/sinker primarily sitting 88 to 92 mph:

  1. Command fastball low in the strike zone because any misses in the strike zone will be hit hard.
  2. Rely more on a two-seam fastball/sinker with downward movement rather than straighter four-seam fastballs further reducing hard contact and naturally helps keep the ball down.
  3. Throw many off-speed pitches (45%-50% of total pitches) making his fastballs appear harder than reality.
  4. Throw at least 70% to 75% first pitch strikes otherwise Verrett will be forced to throw predictable fastballs to climb back even in counts.

Verrett commanded his fastball thigh-high or below on 46% of fastballs but excluding the five intentionally thrown high four-seam fastballs the percentage moves to a respectable 52%.  However, Verrett only threw 34.1% two-seam fastballs/sinkers, another reason his “fastball low in the strike zone” percentage wasn’t higher.  Verrett threw 51.7% off-speed pitches at an outstanding 70.4% strike rate.  Lastly, Verrett threw 77.2% first pitch strikes.  Three out of four isn’t bad for his first spot start of the 2016 season.

Cause for Concern

Verrett showed a stronger out pitch than scouts reported but didn’t exhibit fastball command on each corner of home plate needed for a pitcher throwing in the low 90’s.  In fact, he threw 27 of his 85 pitches (31%) on in inner half of home plate or inside to hitters but only eight of those were commanded well on the inside corner.  Understandably, Verrett lives on the outside corner but must learn to throw inside with a purpose and control.  Lacking control and a presence on the inside corner allows MLB hitters to feel comfortable in the batter’s box and the ability to look for predictable outside pitches.  When a MLB hitter is able to predict or feel comfortable guessing a certain pitch type or pitch location, the more aggressive and confident their swings become.  This makes Verrett vulnerable to higher homerun, hard contact and walk rates.

Stat of the Night

Verrett threw 51.7% off-speed pitches at an outstanding 70.4% strike rate.

Thanks to Brooks Baseball PitchFX tool for pitching statistics.

Follow Chris Zaccherio on Twitter @ziography for more Mets pitching insight that goes beyond statistics.


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The Z Files: Three Takeaways From Mets 2-1 Loss To Marlins Wed, 13 Apr 2016 13:21:58 +0000 terry collins

Noah Syndergaard dominated Miami Marlins hitters during the New York Mets 2-1 loss.  Syndergaard has 14.54 strikeouts per nine innings 1.38 walks per nine innings through two starts this season.

Noah Syndergaard:  (ND) 7.0 IP, 1 R, 7 H, 12 SO, 1 BB

Syndergaard’s fastballs and sinkers were 99 mph bullets.  His 92 mph slider (Yes, 92.7 mph average with slider) and curveball broke so sharp and south they knocked out the devil.  Let’s not forget his 90 mph changeup producing a 36.4% whiff/miss rate.  His mechanics appeared fluid with great rhythm.  He jumped ahead of hitters with a solid 70% first pitch strike rate and stayed ahead, getting to a three ball count only twice, both against Giancarlo Stanton.  Simply, Syndergaard is electrifying and attacking hitters fearlessly.

Regarding the one run allowed, credit aggressive Marlins hitters their second time through their lineup, swinging and making contact with Syndergaard’s first pitch.  The Marlins intelligently realized the further in the count hitting against Syndergaard, the more guessing they would do resulting in a far greater chance of becoming overwhelmed by Syndergaard’s dynamic repertoire of pitches.

Jim Henderson:  0.1 IP, 1 R, 1 H, 0 SO, 2 BB

In previous outings, Jim Henderson was effectively wild, throwing first pitch strikes and inducing hitters to chase fastballs later in at-bats.  Henderson threw first pitch strikes against two of the four Marlins faced but got behind in the count against all of them.  Couple the average command with a sixteen pitch at-bat from Dee Gordon and two 3-2 count walks from Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton and what’s left is a tough situation for Jerry Blevins to deal with.

Henderson’s stat line looks worse than his performance.  Every reliever has tough outings were a key pitch or two don’t go their way and their stat line looks tremendously worse.  Henderson shows nice arm-side run on this 95 mph fastball, hiding the baseball from hitters very well.  Henderson will bounce back successfully

Yoenis Cespedes Seeing the Baseball Well

Yoenis Cespedes showed three traits of a great hitter during his three at-bats:

  1. Swinging aggressively at all three fastball’s thrown in the strike zone while taking all four fastball’s thrown outside the strike zone for a called ball.
  2. Did not swing or chase any pitch out of the strike zone.
  3. Ability hitting an off-speed pitch behind in the count with power (see third inning at-bat behind 1-2, Cespedes hit what would have been a home run into the second deck if not for the extreme wind blowing in from left field. ).

Stats of the Night

  1. Syndergaard’s ERA is 0.69 despite a .370 batting average with balls in play (BABIP), exceptionally higher than the MLB average at approximately .300 and his .279 in 2015.
  2. Syndergaard’s twenty-six whiff’s/misses (26.26% whiff/miss rate) induced is a Mets single game record.

Follow Chris Zaccherio on Twitter @ziography for more Mets insight going beyond statistics.

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The Z Files: The Reason Steven Matz Struggled Against the Marlins Tue, 12 Apr 2016 16:52:21 +0000 steven matz

Steven Matz’ season debut quickly went south, giving up seven earned runs in the second inning in route to a 10-3 New York Mets loss against the Miami Marlins.  Matz exhibited one mechanic flaw leading to his lack of command, particularly in two-strike counts, resulting in the Marlins second inning carousel around the bases.

Steven Matz (L, 0-1) 1.2 IP, 7 R, 6 H, 1 SO, 2 BB

Arrows were pointing up after watching a one, two, three first inning with fastball velocity at 95 mph, culminating in striking out one of Major League Baseball’s best power hitters, Giancarlo Stanton.

Unfortunately, Matz started the second inning breaking one of the cardinal rules of pitching, walking leadoff man Martin Prado.  When a leadoff hitter makes it to first base, he scores approximately 35% of the time.  Making matters worse, Matz walked the following batter Chris Johnson.  Five of the next seven batters grinded out hits, including a Giancarlo Stanton man-bomb home run to left field, knocking Matz out of the game.

The frustrating aspect for Matz and Mets fans alike was during all three Marlins RBI single at-bats, Matz was ahead in the count 1-2 or 2-2.  Matz proceeded throwing hanging curveball after hanging curveball.  Even in Marcel Ozuna’s pop-out, both two strike pitches were hanging curveballs which thankfully Ozuna missed (Side note: Ozuna can’t hit an outside pitch….at all).  Obviously, Matz objective was not to hang curveballs or throw hittable two-strike pitches.  The reason lies in Matz release point.

Simply, Matz throwing arm lagged behind his body forcing his release point to be late, rushed and higher than normal as opposed to his normal release point out in front of his body.  This results in an inability for Matz throwing fingers to stay on top of the baseball.

Matz, and every other Major League pitcher, needs his fingers on top of the baseball at release, allowing his fingers to stay on top of the seams on the baseball.  This allows his fingers to manipulate the spin of the baseball at release, whether ripping down on the seams for a four-seam fastball or getting over the top of the baseball throwing a curveball.

Consequently, Matz fingers come around the seams of the baseball instead of over the seams of the baseball when throwing his curveball, resulting in a weak spin rate and a floating or hanging curveball.  Additionally, fastballs tend to sail high and towards the throwing arm side (up and to the left for Matz) out of the strike zone as seen in four straight fastballs during Prado’s leadoff walk.

Why Matz arm lagged is a separate question I couldn’t unveil through the TV broadcast.  Originally, Matz appeared throwing across his body, meaning his stride/planting leg lands too far left towards first base, blocking off his arm from releasing the baseball out in front of his body.  But this was not the case as Matz was landing with good alignment towards home plate.  Other reasons could include rushing his motion or opening his front shoulder and glove hand too soon but I didn’t see those either.

Whatever the reason, pitching on ten days rest is very difficult, especially for a starting pitcher in a rhythm and routine created during spring training.  Do not put too much stress in the results of this start.

Stat of the Night

The New York Mets have the worst team batting average (.185) and OPS (On-base percentage plus slugging percentage, .529) in Major League Baseball thus far this season.

Follow Chris Zaccherio on Twitter @ziography for more Mets insight going beyond statistics.


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The Z Files: Matt Harvey’s One Defining Pitch Against Phillies Mon, 11 Apr 2016 16:15:55 +0000 matt harvey

The New York Mets hitters were stunned once again by the Philadelphia Phillies in their 5-2 loss yesterday afternoon.  More stunning was Matt Harvey’s pitch selection in key at-bats during the game.

Matt Harvey (L, 0-2) 6.0 IP, 3 R, 6 H, 3 SO, 2 BB

Harvey attacked Phillies hitters throwing 63 of 93 pitches for strikes, an above average 67.7% strike rate.  Harvey got ahead of hitters throwing 18 of 25 first pitch strikes, an above average 72% first pitch strike rate.  Harvey’s movement and command of his secondary pitches was solid considering the cooler air makes gripping and general feeling of the baseball more difficult.  So, how did Harvey allow three runs against a Phillies lineup scoring a total of three runs in the previous two games?

Pitch selection.

On cold or cooler days in April, May and October, the advantage goes to the pitcher.  Pitchers continuously move for their defensive half inning, keeping their body temperature high followed by staying warm on the bench during the offensive half inning.  Conversely, hitters are predominately standing still in the cold, barren field for a defensive half inning and only hit on average every other offensive half inning.  Due to the lack of movement, hitters are stiffer resulting in slower hands and hip/core rotation making it difficult for hitters to turn on inside fastballs.

Harvey threw a good amount of inside fastballs with successful results.  Unfortunately, Harvey turned to off-speed pitches in many two strike counts when clearly the hitter was late on pitches and had no chance making solid contact against inside heat.  Particularly, two instances come to mind:

  1. In the third inning, Harvey was ahead 0-2 against Phillies pitcher Jeremy Hellickson.  Harvey attempted a 0-2 slider which missed over the plate allowing Hellickson to hit a single to right field moving Peter Bourjos to third base.  Bourjos scored the next at-bat on a Freddy Galvis sacrifice fly to left field.  If Harvey gets Hellickson out, Galvis flies out harmlessly to left field and Harvey retires the following two hitters by ground out, meaning Bourjos doesn’t pass second base let alone able to score.
  2. In the sixth inning, Odubel Herrera homered on a 1-2 slider over the right field fence.  Understandably, Harvey threw an off-speed pitch after throwing three straight fastballs.  However, the low and in slider is the wrong pitch selection.  If the slider isn’t thrown low enough, it tends to be an easier pitch for a left-handed hitter to make contact with, which was the result.  Instead, Harvey should have gone low and away out of the strike zone with a changeup, varying eye level and speed differential from his fastball and setting up Herrera for an inside fastball the following pitch.  Even if Herrera anticipates a fastball, Herrera won’t be able to catch up with it for all the reasons above.

Other Notes

Another game, another healthy performance from David Wright.  Aggressive swings all game culminated in a line-drive double into the right-center field gap.  Additionally, Wright made another fluid defensive play, charging a weak ground ball to third base with the throw slightly low to first base negating what would have been a great play.

Yoenis Cespedes sixth inning home run was a beautiful missile into the left field bleachers.  More beautiful was entirety the at-bat.  Cespedes not only battled back from a 1-2 count to force a full 3-2 count but fought off four consecutive pitches low in the strike zone to force a home run bound eleventh pitch of the at-bat.

Stat of the Night

In 2015, Harvey started six games similarly, where he issued two or more walks while having six or less strikeouts.  He amassed a 7.02 ERA in those starts compared to his 2.71 cumulative season ERA.

Follow Chris Zaccherio on Twitter @ziography for more Mets insight going beyond statistics.

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The Z Files: How Jacob deGrom’s Lat Injury Affected His Start Against Phillies Sat, 09 Apr 2016 14:28:42 +0000 jacob deGrom

The New York Mets beat the Philadelphia Phillies 7-2 on Friday with four runs in the seventh, a preview of what’s to come this season against the Phillies deplorable bullpen.  Good teams score but great teams score late (see last two World Series Champions).

Two quick points from last night’s victory:

Jacob deGrom (W, 1-0) 6.0 IP, 1 R, 5 H, 6 SO, 0 BB

Jacob deGrom left the game after six innings due to a sore lat.  It was clear it bothered him during the game.

Normally, deGrom has one of the quickest, most explosive core rotations in his pitching motion.  DeGrom uses his glove hand to pull in towards his body allowing his core to rotate quicker and his throwing arm to come through with less stress and more speed.  Yesterday, deGrom was slightly dropping his front glove hand resulting in less core rotation and forcing deGrom to compensate by throwing more with his arm.

The reason deGrom didn’t pull as hard with his glove hand was due to tenderness in his back.  This effects the normal timing and rhythm of deGrom’s motion, negatively effecting velocity, command and movement of all pitches.  The result is his fastball sitting 91 to 93 mph, below his normal mid-90’s and his off-speed pitches having flatter break and less command compared to his 2015 campaign.

Additionally, this start speaks to two points:

  1. DeGrom showed his confidence and competitiveness, attacking the strike zone regardless of below average velocity and movement compared to his normal repertoire.  DeGrom issued zero walks, throwing 71% strikes including a 16% whiff/miss rate with his fastball.  Let this be a lesson to young pitchers to challenge hitters because hitters aren’t that good….
  2. Especially Phillies hitters.  Their lineup is horrific, especially without Maikel Franco, which certainly helps an unhealthy deGrom battle through six successful innings.

Left-side of Mets Infield

For the first time in a long time, the left-side of the Mets infield looks healthy and defensively sound.  Obviously, David Wright’s health is still in question but it was great to see his charging bare-hand throw to first base which we haven’t seen successfully done in two years.

More importantly, Asdrubal Cabrera made three above average defensive plays, charging and diving in the second inning and tough play up the middle in the sixth inning, showing good range and a strong arm.

Thanks to @BrooksBaseball PitchFX tool for pitching statistics.

Follow Chris Zaccherio on Twitter @ziography for more Mets insight going beyond statistics.


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The Z Files: Two Changes For Syndergaard Leads To Sheer Dominance Of Royals Lineup Wed, 06 Apr 2016 15:44:35 +0000 noah syndergaard

The New York Mets scratched out the first win of the 2016 season in their 2-0 victory over the Kansas City Royals.  Throughout the game it was evident through so many foul balls and swings and misses the Mets hitters were having difficulty picking up pitches, which is normal during the first month of the season.  Thankfully, Noah Syndergaard aka Thor was ready.

There were adjustments in Syndergaard’s delivery and pitch selection which, if sustained during the season, will lead him into the Cy Young conversation.

Noah Syndergaard:  6.0 IP (W), 0 R, 3 H, 9 SO, 1 BB

Syndergaard unveiled a new pre-pitch stance, appearing as though he was pitching from the stretch with his feet in-line with home plate and his shoulder closed off to the hitter.  Taking away the excess movement of starting from the prototypical windup with feet and shoulders open to home plate and forced to turn the front shoulder and feet closed towards home plate leads to two positive results:

  1. Syndergaard’s body, most importantly his head and eyes, stay on a straight path towards home plate and his target.  This results in a much greater chance the baseball goes toward the target.
  2. Syndergaard’s pitching motion has a greater chance of repeating itself every pitch, resulting in a more consistent release point.  The more consistent a release point, the more consistent command for his full repertoire of pitches (fastball, curveball, slider and changeup), rather than one or two as we saw last season (fastball and curveball).

Yesterday, Syndergaard showed great fastball command, throwing fastballs at a 73% strike rate with a whiff/miss rate of 13.3%, in-line with his 68% strike rate and 11.6% whiff/miss rate during 2015.  The difference lies in his changeup and slider usage and whiff/miss rates.

In 2015, Syndergaard posted a 14% changeup usage rate with a strong 18% whiff/miss rate compared with a 22% usage rate and 25% whiff/miss rate yesterday afternoon.  An even bigger disparity lies in Syndergaard’s 2015 slider usage at a low 3.18% with a high 24.42% whiff/miss rate compared with his slider usage rate yesterday over 17%, with an exceptional whiff/miss rate at 37.5%.

The best dominance in Syndergaard’s slider was seen in the sixth inning with the bases loaded and two-outs facing Kendrys Morales.  Syndergaard threw three straight sliders, ranging from 93 to 95 mph, resulting in three swing and misses by Morales.  Going into the game, I would have said three straight sliders would be the last sequence of pitches thrown by Syndergaard in that situation.  Clearly, Morales thought the same.

Yesterday’s success shows the importance in Syndergaard throwing more sliders and changeups with sharp strikeout movement allowing him more strikeout pitches when he struggles to control his curveball (his curveball was thrown at an abysmal 18% strike rate with one swing and miss).

Other Notes

The ex-Brewers closer and now middle reliever Jim Henderson showed more than the scouting reports credit him for, showing a fastball with nice arm-side/two-seam run sitting 95 to 97 mph.  Although many of Henderson’s sliders showed average movement, he flashed a sharp slider low and away to Omar Infante.

Although Michael Conforto went hit-less in four at-bats, he took aggressive, compact swings resulting in solid contact including a line-out to Lorenzo Cain at the warning track in the second inning.

In the seventh inning with the bases loaded facing Luke Hochevar, Yoenis Cespedes hit a 0-2 pitch foul which landed in Antarctica.  Don’t worry Mets fans, he’s going to be okay.

Stat of the Night

Syndergaard induced 18 swing and misses, a combined 19.57% whiff/miss rate.  Most strikeout pitchers have a 20% to 30% whiff/miss rate for a single pitch during the course of a game (Aroldis Chapman Baseball Reference” href=”” target=”_blank”>Aroldis Chapman’s fastball) but never this high for their full repertoire of pitches combined.

Follow Chris Zaccherio on Twitter @ziography for more Mets insight going beyond statistics.

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The Z Files: Four Takeaways from Mets 4-0 Win Over the Braves Tue, 22 Sep 2015 14:29:27 +0000 Granderson Curtis

The New York Mets get back on track with a simple 4-0 victory over the Atlanta Braves.  The Mets lead over the Washington Nationals increases to 6.5 games with their magic number to clinch the division now at seven.

Here are four encouraging points from last nights victory.

Jon Niese:  W, 6.0 IP, 0 R, 3 H, 2 SO, 2 BB

With his first win in a month, Niese pitched well against a weak Braves lineup, throwing well located two-seam fastballs and cut-fastballs (cutters) low in the strike zone.  Niese used his curveball to keep Braves batters off-balance and produce a 13.6% swing and miss rate (miss/whiff rate).

This resulted in his second highest ground ball rate at 78.9%, well above his season average of 54.5%.  Unlike Sundays sixth inning, the Mets infield fielded very well, even gloving some tough hops off the infield grass.

This strong defense can be attributed to Niese pitching at a fast pace.  Working quickly keeps your position players on their toes, ready to field the baseball.

Curtis Granderson Leading the Way

Under the radar, Granderson is the catalyst to the Mets offense scoring two runs via a single and two walks last night.

A leadoff hitters motto is, “get on and get in”.  Simply, great leadoff hitters make pitchers work by taking pitches, produce a high on-base percentage and score a high number of runs.

Over the past 30 days, Granderson MLB ranking are 11th in runs scored (21), eighth in on-base percentage (.451) and second in walks (27).

Addison Reed to Tyler Clippard to Jeurys Familia

The Mets 7th, 8th and 9th inning relief combination shut the door last night, striking out three and no walks over three scoreless innings.

This threesome isn’t unhittable as we saw with the 2014 Kansas City Royals.  But Sandy Alderson has constructed a top five MLB trio combination heading into the playoffs.  Hate him or love him, either way please credit Alderson for bolstering the backend of this bullpen for the playoff run.

Michael Conforto Homers

Conforto continues showing off his natural power with another opposite field missile home run.  Although it’s too late in the season to switch the Mets platoon situation, I would love to see Conforto face left-handed pitchers in 2016.

Follow Chris Zaccherio on Twitter @ziography for more Mets insight going beyond statistics.

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The Z Files: Three Takeaways From Mets Subway Series Finale Loss Mon, 21 Sep 2015 15:04:55 +0000 david wright

The Mets gave away a 1-0 sixth inning lead through poor defense and below average bullpen performances, losing 11-2 in the rubber match of the subway series.

Here are three takeaways from the loss.

1.  Matt Harvey:  5 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 7 SO, 1 BB

Once again, Harvey showed sharp movement and above average command with his off-speed pitches, throwing a 67.74% strike rate resulting in a strong 19.35% swing and miss rate (miss/whiff rate).

Harvey’s only remaining issue is the amount of wasted fastballs thrown too far out of the strike zone to induce swings.  Many of these poorly located fastballs come early in at-bats, putting Harvey behind in the count and reduce the amount of opportunities for off-speed pitches.  These wasted fastballs drive up pitch count as well.

Additionally, the shaky fastball command led to three deep, towering fly ball outs.  Carlos Beltran in the third inning and Didi Gregorius in the fifth inning narrowly missed with the barrel of their bats letter high fastballs over the middle of the plate.  Greg Bird was just under the baseball flying out deep to centerfield in the fourth inning.

On each of these three pitches the barrel of the bat was a centimeter away from hitting a home run.

I am positive, when Harvey regains fastball command, he will be arguably the best pitcher in MLB.  Don’t expect this until next season but maybe, just maybe, we start seeing magic this October.

2.  Yoenis Cespedes

During the TV broadcast, ESPN showed a statistic that Cespedes was 0-for-18 with 8 strikeouts since the hit-by-pitch on September 15th.

I doubt the hit-by-pitch has anything to do with his current slump.  There are two contributors to Cespedes’ current slump:

  1. Normally, MLB hitters come off extreme hot streaks with a week or two cool down period because the hitter crosses the point from being an aggressive hitter to swinging at too many pitches too early in at-bats.  The hot streak gives over-confidence to the hitter, allowing the hitter to believe they will make hard contact with any and every pitch thrown to them.  Cespedes will soon realize this and begin taking more pitches.
  2. Cespedes was hitting at Barry Bonds like statistics but Cespedes is not Barry Bonds.  Cespedes isn’t Rey Ordonez either.  Understand the MLB season is very long and although Cespedes streak was spectacular, the even flow of the long season will soon regress his statistics back towards the mean.  Much like the stock market, superior hitting performance isn’t sustainable for consecutive months at a time but consistent improvement and success is sustainable over longer periods of time.  Let’s embrace this cold streak now prior to the playoffs beginning.

3.  Side Thoughts

Sean Gilmartin should have been brought in to start the sixth inning instead of Hansel Robles if Gilmartin didn’t pitch Saturday but I understand Terry Collins tried giving Gilmartin more rest.  Gilmartin helps switch up the pitching look from a hard throwing righty to a soft throwing lefty against a lineup set up against a righty.

Either way, it is tough to fault Terry Collins bringing in Robles given he had been pitching well recently.  Additionally, Daniel Murphy and David Wright’s fielding errors didn’t help Robles’ start.

Follow Chris Zaccherio on Twitter @ziography for more Mets insight going beyond statistics.

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The Z Files: DeGrom Has 6.41 ERA Over Last Five Starts Wed, 16 Sep 2015 14:16:38 +0000 USATSI_8804069_154511658_lowres

Stat Line:  5 IP, 6 R, 10 H, 5 SO, 0 BB

Jacob deGrom was ineffective again on Tuesday night against the Marlins, continuing a stretch that has seen him post a 6.41 ERA and a .327 opposing batting average over his last five starts.

“It was just a start where in the fourth and fifth inning, I couldn’t locate the ball and left it over the middle,” deGrom said. “I felt fine early in the game.”

DeGrom’s poor stat line from last night’s 9-3 loss to the Miami Marlins was a product of below average pitch command.

DeGrom exhibited sharp pitch movement, producing an 11.76% swing and miss rate, close to his miss rate season average at 14.00%.  His fastball velocity was normal, sitting 94 to 96 mph and touching 97 to 98 mph.  The changeup and curveball velocity were typical, sitting 10 to 14 mph slower than his fastball.  He mixed his pitches well, throwing 60.00% fastballs, 12.94% changeups, 10.58% sliders and 16.47% curveballs.

At first glance, it seemed deGrom’s command was decent at a 69.41% strike rate but throwing strikes and throwing well located strikes are two different concepts.

DeGrom did an exceptional job of attacking the strike zone early in at-bats, throwing 22-of-23 first pitch strikes (95%).  15 of the 23 (65%) first pitches were fastballs.  During deGrom’s successful outings this season, he has consistently thrown more of a 50%-50% first pitch split between fastballs and off-speed pitches, helping stay unpredictable to hitters also referred to as “pitching backwards”.

Although the 65% fastball to 35% off-speed first pitch split wasn’t optimal, the split didn’t result in deGrom’s hits.  In fact, during the fourth inning deGrom successfully switched to first pitch curveballs after back to back RBI hits off his fastball.  Aside from helping keep hitters off-balance, the first pitch curveball slows the momentum for the offensive team.

During the fifth inning, deGrom allowed Marlins pitcher Tom Koehler to hit a double on a first pitch fastball.  I can’t fault deGrom for attacking Koehler with a first pitch fastball because there was no one on-base, one out and deGrom needed to force Koehler to earn his way on-base.

The issue was the location of his fastball and most of his pitches last night.  Here is a rundown and scouting report of the pitches thrown on the Marlins run producing hits:

Fourth Inning

Justin Bour hits a hard ground ball down the left-field line for an RBI double – 97 MPH fastball, good location knee high on outside corner.

Marcell Ozuna hits line drive into center field for RBI single – 96 MPH fastball, poor location belt high over inner half of home plate.

J.T. Realmuto hits fly ball to right field for RBI sacrifice fly – 95 MPH fastball, below average location knee high but over the middle third of home plate.

Fifth Inning

Christian Yelich hits deep fly ball to right-center field gap for RBI double – 94 MPH fastball, poor location thigh high over the middle third of home plate.

Martin Prado hits fly ball to left field for RBI sacrifice fly – 85 MPH changeup, poor location knee high but over the middle third of home plate.

Bour his line drive to center field for RBI single – 81 MPH curveball, poor location hanging belt high over middle third of home plate.  Additionally, deGrom threw a 1-0 hanging changeup belt high over the inner third of home plate earlier in the at-bat to Bour.  Thankfully for deGrom, Bour swung and missed at that 1-0 pitch.

Give the Marlins credit.  For a team out of playoff contention, the Marlins offense stayed aggressive and had timely hits.

Did fatigue play a role in deGrom hanging off-speed pitches?  Maybe.

The Mets ace has thrown a career-high 181 innings although Terry Collins seemed to downplay whether deGrom should skip his next start.

“The one thing we cannot forget is, we are in a pennant race,” Collins said. “We are at the end of the season, we do not need to be getting rid of our best pitchers and letting them sit on the side for a while. If we decide to skip him we skip him, but we’ve got some games in between, we’ll see what goes on.”

Is there a mechanical issue?  Possibly.  DeGrom has such a quick delivery, it is tough seeing if he is opening up with his glove to early and rushing his motion, which is usually the source of hanging breaking balls and fastballs leaking back over home plate from the outside corner.

Whatever the reason, don’t look too much into this start.  Look at deGrom’s full body of work this season and understand he will be given the proper rest going into the playoffs.

Follow Chris Zaccherio on Twitter @ziography for more Mets insight going beyond statistics.



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The Z Files: Five Takeaways From Mets 5-3 Comeback Victory Over Nationals Thu, 10 Sep 2015 16:51:55 +0000 Cespedes Yoenis

Three game series against National League East division rival Washington Nationals.  Three comeback wins.  Seven game lead in NL East division standings.  Two games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers for National League first round home field advantage, with possible second round home field if the St. Louis Cardinals are upset in the first round.

The New York Mets are riding high.

Here are five takeaways from last night’s exciting 5-3 comeback victory.

The Infield Playing In During the Fourth Inning

I hate giving up outs.  I hate position players bunting before the eighth inning.  I hate the infield playing in before the before the eighth inning.

Simply, giving up outs from playing the infield in gives the offense a higher probability for more runs and possibly multiples of runs in an inning.

I understand Terry Collins believed last night’s game would be a low scoring game after seeing Strasburg dominate the first four innings.  The problem with this theory is the Nationals bullpen amassing a 14.21 ERA in 6.2 innings pitched in the previous two games in this series.  Additionally, the Mets hitting has been hot and have shown consistent recent late game success over the past month.  Collins needs to trust and believe in the Mets hitting and momentum.

Playing the infield in gave up an easy potential out on Clint Robinsons weak groundball in the location Wilmar Flores normally plays.  Playing the infield in did not effect Bryce Harper scoring on Robinson’s weak groundball single as Harper would have scored if the infield was at normal depth.

However, Robinson would have scored later in the fourth inning on Wilson Ramos fly ball to centerfield if it weren’t for Robinson’s knucklehead tag out, standing up off of the third base bag after originally sliding into third safely

Travis d’Arnaud

D’Arnaud was aggressive and smart at the plate going 2-for-4 night with a home run.

More importantly was his at-bat in the top of the ninth inning, hitting an opposite field groundball allowing Lucas Duda to move to third base with less than two-outs.  Duda eventually scored the insurance run.

Jacob deGrom:  W, 7.0 IP, 2 R, 5 H, 9 SO, 2 BB

DeGrom showed fastball command low in the strike zone, throwing fastballs at a 73.01% strike rate.  Impressively, deGrom produced swing and misses with his full repertoire of pitches totaling 23 Nationals swing and misses.  According to Brooks Baseball PitchF/X tool, here is the pitch to miss rate breakdown:

Fastball:  22.2% miss rate

Changeup:  25.0% miss rate

Slider:  21.1% miss rate

Curveball:  25.0% miss rate

Higher miss rates show a pitchers ability to better control the outcomes of at-bats, producing more strikeouts and weaker contact.

Stephen Strasburg:  L, 7.1 IP, 3 R, 5 H, 13 SO, 1 K

If you saw the game live, Strasburg’s curveball was noticeably sharp resulting in eight swing and misses (22.9% miss rate).  Mets hitters tried working the count but Strasburg threw 67% strikes translating to only two Mets at-bats getting to three-ball counts.

Unfortunately, I predict Strasburg will hurt his elbow in the next few years.  As pitchers break their throwing hand from their glove hand beginning their pitching motion, pitchers need to hinge or bend their elbows.  This helps whip their arm forward at maximum speed translating to higher pitch velocity.  When this hinging takes place, the pitchers arm needs to take the shape of an upside down L, not an inverted W.  Strasburg hinges with an inverted W shape.

Taking the inverted W shape causes Strasburg’s throwing hand/forearm to whip around his elbow instead of over his elbow to his release point.  Over time, this movement is one way to cause elbow wear and tear resulting in Tommy John Surgery.

Kelly Johnson

Quietly Johnson is producing lately.  Since August 29th, Johnson has 25 plate appearances resulting in two homeruns, a .348 batting average and a .652 slugging percentage.

Follow Chris Zaccherio on Twitter @ziography for more Mets insight going beyond statistics.


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