During Jonathon Niese’s first at bat the other night Josh Lewin casually mentioned that he had a three game hitting streak going back to last year. Pitcher hitting streaks are not something you pay much attention to, as even a three game streak during the season spans 10 or more days. Niese laced an RBI single to left field in the fourth to extend the streak to four and it made me wonder about pitcher hitting streaks.
Turns out four games ties for the active lead among pitchers with Colby Lewis. Lewis’ is perhaps most interesting because it began all the way back in 2011 with a double in June bring him to one out of eight on the season. He made only one start in an NL park in 2012, going two for four against the Astros. He missed all of 2013, but managed a hit in both his NL games in 2014 including the 4th one against the Bartolo Colon and the Mets on July 5th. The Rangers play in Arizona on April 21st and 22nd, but Lewis is scheduled to miss them. Kyle Kendrick just had a 4-game hitting streak end against Clayton Kershaw on Friday.
Niese’s streak began on September 20th last year against the Braves’ David Hale. Many Mets pitchers have had a four game hitting streak, most recently R.A. Dickey did it in 2011 and 2012. There are six guys with five hits, most notably Mike Hampton and Tom Seaver. Anytime your name is mentioned alongside Seaver’s you know you’re doing something right. The all-time Mets leader though, with a six game hitting streak from late 1974 to early 1975, was Jerry Koosman. Koosman hit .500 during his streak going nine for 18 with a double, triple, and four RBI. It ended against the Expos and Dave McNally when Koosman failed to get a hit in his first AB and after giving up six runs through five was replaced in his second AB by Jesus Alou. Niese will face the Braves tonight trying to make it five.
You might be wondering what the All-Time streak is. Niese is nowhere near Wilbur Cooper’s 16 game streak from 1924. Cooper hit .346/.376/.433 on the season that year while winning 20 games for the Pirates. More recently Carlos Zambrano had a 13 game hitting streak, but the play-index query I used ignored his pinch hitting appearances where he wasn’t a pitcher. Truthfully he only had a six game hitting streak. Johnny Sain had a 13 game streak in 1947 which is good for second place on this list.
When I said ‘pitcher hitting streak’ your mind may have first gone to Babe Ruth. Ruth did have an 11 game streak crossing from 1917 to 1918 as a pitcher, but there were a bunch of games in the middle as a pinch hitter and first baseman. Truthfully he hit in the final two games of 1917 as a pitcher, and then 10 of the first 11 games of 1918, with the one miss being a walk as a pinch hitter. That’s a 12 game streak, nine of which were as a pitcher. Ruth would later have a 26 game hitting streak with the Yankees, but not as a pitcher.
Can Niese get a 5th hit tonight against Trevor Cahill? If so the streak might start getting some real attention; five games is a lot for a pitcher. At that point only six active players would have had a longer one, with Wade Miley’s 2012 8-game streak being the top. Niese has never batted against Cahill, but I’m looking forward to the matchup.
Los Angeles – The Internet Baseball Writers Association of America (IBWAA) announced the winners in its Cy Young category Wednesday, with the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw winning the group’s National League award, and Felix Hernandez, of the Seattle Mariners, being selected in the American League.
Clayton Kershaw was a no-brainer, and his unanimous selection means everyone else agreed. After the playoffs I do feel a little silly having left Madison Bumgarner off the ballot entirely, but there was a lot of good pitching.
Hernandez’s selection was more contested. I voted for Corey Kluber, who did receive more first-place votes but less total points. It was really a toss-up either way, as both guys were definitely deserving. I ultimately erred on the side of Kluber’s higher WAR and strikeout total.
- Clayton Kershaw
- Johnny Cueto
- Adam Wainwright
- Zack Greinke
- Cole Hamels
- Corey Kluber
- Felix Hernandez
- Chris Sale
- Jon Lester
- David Price
Here are some photos of Rafael Montero pitching off the Citi Field Mound at last year’s MLB All-Star Futures Game.
Pitcher wins mean next to nothing. They’re a factor of the offense, defense, the opposing pitcher and often times the bullpen. The best way to accumulate wins as a pitcher is to play on a team that scores a billion runs. That team is not the Mets.
The Mets are 13-12 in Matt Harvey starts. He has nine wins and four losses, which is actually a pretty good percentage. The Mets are then four and eight after he leaves the game, suggesting that they are a team with a really good player and aren’t as good when he leaves the game. Additionally, they’ve been playing without their best hitter and best reliever for a couple of weeks now, the guys they’d need most in those post-Harvey innings. The Mets don’t score runs, and when they do they often do it in bunches. That is why they don’t win more Matt Harvey games. The less runs you score as a team, the less likely those runs are going to be scored for your ace. This is especially true when you’re trying to build a cushion of runs to preserve a lead with the bullpen pitching at least two innings for even the best of starters in the league, of which Matt Harvey is one.
The Mets won 52% of Matt Harvey’s starts so far this year and 44.3% of their games otherwise. Over 162 games that means they’d win 84 games if Harvey started everyday, and just 72 if he wasn’t on the team. That’s quite a difference, in fact it’s 17% better. Just for a reference point 17% better than a .500 team would get you to nearly 95 wins.
Of course, there’s a lot of randomness and luck in there because the Mets score runs independent of who they’re starting, so running into a lot of weak starters on one day, or a hitter happening to have a great day another can greatly skew these results, which is why a pitcher’s record mean so little. If Daniel Murphy gets hot and goes four for five with two home runs one day, that has nothing to do with how well Matt Harvey is pitching. There is no rhyme or reason to which batters happen to hit well on a given day, and it’s just luck if it happens on one pitcher’s starting day more than another’s. It’s safe to say the Mets aren’t quite wasting Matt Harvey starts, because he is making them much better. He’s helping them win games they’d have no business winning otherwise given how many runs they scored. In some ways, if they scored six or seven runs on a day Harvey started that could more be considered wasting his start, because they’d rarely need so many to cover what he gives up to the opposing team.
Last night I was lucky to be in the ballpark to see Matt Harvey baffle the White Sox hitters all night long. It was an amazing performance from the start, and a captivating one. I watched the game in awe; whether or not he would get the perfect game was immaterial to his dominance. You knew that he was pitching well enough to get one, and if he didn’t it would be that odd squib or perfectly placed grounder that broke it up. It was precisely that, a perfectly placed ball between third and short off the bat of the speedy Alex Rios that did it.
That didn’t take away from the greatness of it. That’s probably the best game I’ve ever seen in person, and it might just be the best game I ever will see in person and I’m only 31. Last season I saw Dickey spin a masterful one-hitter that had much the same feel as last night’s game in that you just knew the opposition had no chance. I also saw Johan Santana’s 4-hit complete game shutout the start before the no-hitter that was probably his most dominating game of the year. Before that I got to see Santana’s final start of 2008, that gutsy performance to flay the Marlins and keep the Mets playoff hopes alive. That was a great game too, but any of us would’ve taken a 12-10 slug-fest just as easily, the magnitude of the win overshadowed how it was achieved.
Watching Matt Harvey emerge..no, emerge sounds too timid. Watching Matt Harvey burst onto the scene as one of the best pitchers in the game the way he has is a feeling all it’s own. He leads the league in strikeouts and WHIP. He’s given up an average of only four hits per nine innings. He throws in the mid-high 90s with his fastball. He’ll pitch with blood streaming out of his nose. He probably juggles between innings to entertain his teammates and feeds and nurtures the stray cats that live around Citi Field.
Onlookers that remember have started to draw comparisons to Dwight Gooden and how his starts at Shea Stadium were events. Matt Harvey is certainly getting there, and fast. Just look at Twitter and see all the people after the game last night and today planning to be there on Sunday for his next start. As the weather warms up this will become very evident, but it hasn’t yet. Last night’s crowd was sparse and quite for the most part. Everyone got into it as they realized just how dominating he was last night, but for a nice night against a team that few Mets fans have ever seen the crowd was disappointing.
I understand that you feel betrayed by the Mets, or the payroll, or the record, or the Wilpons, or Beltran, but baseball is awesome and every Matt Harvey start, if not every game, is an opportunity to see something wonderful. So instead of muttering under your breath about wasted starts and commenting to me about firing the hitting coach as we watch the bottom of the 10th, enjoy what’s in front of us; a great Matt Harvey performance and a walk-off victory.
Remember R.A. Dickey? He was a great pitcher for the Mets for three years, and features prominently in a movie about his signature pitch. This movie, by MPI/FilmBuff which you can get here (released April 2nd), was filmed during the 2011 season and in addition to Dickey features Tim Wakefield and the five other retired knuckleballers.
And you can win a copy! Three lucky readers will take home their very own copy of the DVD. All you have to do is have a little optimism about the 2013 New York Mets. Follow @Ceetar on Twitter and send me a mention with the hashtag #Knuckleball and the one aspect of the 2013 season you’re most excited about. Additionally you can email email@example.com with your submission, comment on this post, message Optimistic Mets Fan on Facebook, or randomly run into me in real life and tell me your answer. (Who knows, creatively getting me your submission may win you brownie points)
I spent some time poking through the DVD. I definitely recommend it, and check out some of the additional features if you want to know more about the knuckleball. The best part may be the conversation between Dickey, Wakefield, Hough and Niekro, just sitting around talking about it. That’s worth the price of the DVD itself. Also very interesting is all the super slo-mo images of the knuckleball in flight, that’s always fascinating.
And a favorite part of mine is when R.A. Dickey visits some young baseball players in Ramapo, NJ and teases them that he’s not going to tell them about his pitch because it’s a “Mets secret” and a lot of them are Yankees fans. When one kid asks who he owns, he responds with Derek Jeter. A little bit of trolling by Dickey there, and it’s much appreciated.
Here’s the synopsis:
The definitive documentary about the impossible-to-hit pitch, the knuckleball!
From acclaimed filmmakers Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg (The Devil Came on Horseback; Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work) this heartfelt, funny and deeply engaging film delves into the legendary subculture of the knuckleball and the brotherhood of men who share the drive, imagination and humility to throw baseball‘s slowest, most disrespected pitch. Filmed throughout the 2011 season, KNUCKLEBALL follows 37 year-old R.A. Dickey (New York Mets and 2012 All-Star) and 18-year veteran Tim Wakefield, formerly the oldest player in the major leagues and an icon of the Boston Red Sox, detailing their personal and professional triumphs of the season while exploring the bond between them and their only allies, the five living retired knuckleballers – Charlie Hough, Wilbur Wood, Jim Bouton, Tom Candiotti, and Hall of Famer Phil Niekro. KNUCKLEBALL is the story of these extraordinary men, and the sacrifices they made to a pitch that would come to define their lives.
Nearly 2 hours of Featurettes, Interviews, and More
If you’re like me, you’ve adopted the Toronto Blue Jays as your American League team since it has former Mets favorites R.A. Dickey, Jose Reyes, and a few others. In an effort to get to know the entire team, and not just those guys, I’ve decided to take a closer look at the rest of the team, starting with the rotation.
We’re familiar with Josh Johnson, as he was acquired from the Miami Marlins. After barely pitching in 2011, Johnson’s 2012 wasn’t great. He was still a good pitcher, he just walked a few more and gave up a few more hits than his career line suggests. It’s not unreasonable to expect him to bounce back a little, even in the American League, and be a terrific starter for the Blue Jays.
Mark Buehrle was also acquired from the Marlins, and is one of the more consistent pitchers in baseball. He spent most of his career with the White Sox, so he’s not unfamiliar with the American League. Last year he had a pretty good year, with a 3.74 ERA and nearly a career low 1.171 WHIP. He actually struck out more and walked less than his career norms during his stint in Miami. Going into his age 34 season I’d expect much of the same from him, and that will be very valuable to the Blue Jays.
Ricky Romero is the youngest pitcher of the five at 28, although only a couple months younger than Brandon Morrow who’s only a couple of months younger than Josh Johnson. Ricky Romero had a bad season last year, struggling with his control and leading the league in walks. Romero’s always been a bit wild, but prior to 2012 he walked two less guys per nine innings and that led to a lot of success in his first three years in the majors. I don’t know what to expect from Romero next year off of reading his stat lines and a couple of posts from writers that also seem unsure of what the reason was for Romero’s drastic decline. It would seem reasonable to expect him to be better than he was last year certainly, although probably not as good as he was in 2011 when he enjoyed a very high batting average on balls in play and corresponding low hits per nine innings. Romero will probably take the ball, pitch a lot of innings, and generally keep his team in the game. On a team that just imported three good starting pitchers, that’s probably perfectly fine.
Brandon Morrow is the last but not least member of the rotation. He suffered some oblique problems last year limiting his innings and also presumably lowering his strikeout rate which was much lower than his normal rate. He made eight starts to end the season so perhaps that is behind him, but he’s never pitched more than 180 innings in the majors so it is something to worry about. He throws hard and even though he had a career low strikeout rate last year, he also cut out some of the walks and ended up with a career low ERA. If his oblique is fine and his strikeouts return, he’s a guy you can expect a good year from and certainly a big contributor to what looks like a very nice rotation up in Toronto.
Those are the four guys projected to join R.A. Dickey in the Blue Jays rotation, and it looks like a tough year for AL East batters. As is the case in most years there will be injuries that cause other players to get some starts, but these are the five who will start the year for Toronto.
One of those things I set-up but never published. Here’s a video of Jerry Koosman and R.A. Dickey talking scoreless innings earlier in the year.
Chris Capuano was a Met last year, as you may remember. He wasn’t a particularly good pitcher, although he had his moments. After 66 innings in 2010, Capuano came to the Mets healthy for the first time in a while and had a pretty good first half before tailing off in the second. The Mets correctly assumed that Capuano would get too much money for a near replacement level starter and didn’t retain him, but what he has become this year has been anything but average, although he does again appear to be tailing off in the second half again.
Perhaps this ‘change’ is simply him being comfortable with his body one year removed from surgery, but he’s got basically the same K/BB as last year. He’s got a career low ERA even after a sub-par second half so far. He’s throwing much more pitches in the zone, but actually getting less contact on them, and much less contact outside of the zone. It certainly seems like he’s setting up hitters better and keeping them more off balance. He’s allowed less hits overall, and less home runs.
I guess you could attribute some of that to defense, although the Dodgers defense doesn’t seem particularly awesome, just better than the Mets. Seems a big jump to attribute just to that. His FIP is better, but his xFIP is worse. (Although it’s hard to trust a stat that says fielding independent and yet gets better when fielders make plays) Is this an indictment on Dan Warthen and the Mets staff? Was there an adjustment to be made that he was unable to figure out with the Mets? I know Ron Darling mentioned on the broadcast one day that he worked with Capuano a little last year on some things, and while it’s cool that he’s helping out, it seems like a bad sign that the broadcaster is helping out the pitchers on the side. This wouldn’t be the first pitcher that struggled here and succeeded elsewhere, although maybe that’s true of every team and it just seems like it’s more with the Mets.
This is just piece of evidence against Dan Warthen’s tenure as pitching coach continuing. With all the young pitchers the Mets are going with, I’d really love to have a brilliant coach that can really nurture these guys and get the best out of them. I don’t believe Dan Warthen is that guy.
The talk lately has been whether or not the Mets should shut down Johan Santana for the season. He’s been mostly ineffective lately, and there is a growing concern that he’s hit a wall with all the rehab and work he’s put in to be healthy this season. No matter what you or I think, the Mets and Santana have a lot more knowledge of the situation than we do. There is probably no clear and obvious answer here even for the Mets, and especially not for people outside the situation, which includes the media. The media are writers and reporters, not doctors. They’re as unqualified to speak on the right course of action as they were to speak on the state of the Mets finances. Take their info on how Santana is feeling and what the Mets are saying about it, but their prescribed course of action is not necessarily the best one.
Personally I’d err on the side of keeping him pitching. At least until he throws a good game or two. This is all presuming that there isn’t some unseen or unreported injury, but recovering from a serious injury to perform at the top level of your craft is hard, tenuous work. Throughout his life Johan Santana’s arm has been what’s separated him from his peers, it’s what makes him special. To have that arm give out on you so seriously can be crushing. I imagine that feeling has been in the back of Johan’s mind all season. The same is true of any injury; if you hurt your foot even days after you feel no pain you still often step tenuously because you expect it to hurt. Johan Santana has all the same doubts floating through his head that we do about the durability of his shoulder and whether he’s the same pitcher. So on that note, I think it’s valuable for him to get through this period the same way any pitcher wants to get through the valleys inherent in every season. It’s important for him to dismiss the doubts that his shoulder is failing him and allow it not to be the undercurrent of every outing he has next spring. Reaffirm that hard work will get him where he needs to go, and then shut him down.
I do think there could be some value in getting Johan Santana an extra week or two off this offseason by shutting him down in September once he’s hopefully bounced back from this stretch. The Mets might like to get a start or two out of prospects like Colin McHugh or Jeurys Familia and Santana’s spot would be one way to do that. After all Johan Santana has given us as fans, particularly the no-hitter, it’d be nice to see him go out this year on a high note.