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Extra MPH, First-inning jitters, walk-offs and sweeps

By Andrew Mees ~ May 17th, 2009. Filed under: Digest Contributors.

- If you caught the end of the Mets’ 9-6 victory over the Giants yesterday, you saw J.J. Putz nail down the victory for his first save as a Met, giving Frankie Rodriguez the day off.

Maybe it’s just me, but the numbers at the top of the screen that have read 91 and 92 recently when Putz has pitched were suddenly 94 and 95 yesterday in the ninth.  Now, this could be purely coincidence, or the result of a couple days off and a cortisone shot in his throwing elbow.  But after his recent interview with Boomer and Carton in which he stated he’s “looking for adrenaline” in the eighth, it leads me to believe this was more of a mental boost than anything.

As a former closer (albeit in college) I simply cannot understand where Mr. Putz is coming from.  A closer needs to have a special mentality to be successful, an approach centered around unyielding aggression in the strike zone and the ability to harness their emotions and adrenaline to shut the game down.

But if you can master this sound mental approach, it doesn’t matter whether you enter the game in the eighth or the ninth, or at least it shouldn’t matter.  Putz won’t be put in a game if it’s not close, so he’s essentially closing the game out, just an inning earlier.  Why does the scoreboard have to read “9″ just to evoke the elevated emotion and adrenaline?

I’m all for adjustment periods, because this is a new role for him, so some patience is needed.  But when comments are made that the extra miles an hour are in the ninth inning, it’s simply a cop-out for poor results, and a poor mental approach to the job.  If he can learn to leave his ego at the door, he can be the best set-up man in the game.

- Great coaching job by the Yankees yesterday.  They had starter Joba Chamberlain throw a simulated first inning in the bullpen before his start, attempting to work out some of those “first inning jitters”.  To me, it’s the perfect remedy for Joba.  The emotion he brings to the game can be damaging at points, especially as a starting pitcher.  By increasing the intensity of his pregame warm-up, he loses a little of that adrenaline, and can settle in earlier in his actual start.  I think this will pay huge dividends for him over the course of the season, and judging by his numbers yesterday, I agree with our readers that a move to the bullpen is not needed.

- Nice moment for A-Rod yesterday, dropping that walk-off bomb.  Say what you want about him, but the guy’s been through an awful lot.  While nearly all of it has been through his own doing, it’s still nice to see him win his team a ballgame.

- The Mets go for a four-game sweep of the Giants tonight on ESPN.  This the type of game they’re going to need to start winning if they want to reach their full potential.  They’ve won three games largely without Jose Reyes and Carlos Delgado, so they’re not at full strength.  But great teams find ways to win, and great teams don’t just win series, they get sweeps.  It takes an extremely focused and mentally strong team to get that final victory in a series, when you’ve already won it and have a long trip ahead of you.  It’s what separates the good teams from the great, so let’s see if our Mets are on the verge of taking that next step tonight.

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3 Responses to Extra MPH, First-inning jitters, walk-offs and sweeps

  1. Rex

    Someone’s really riding this “good vs. great” meme for all it’s worth huh? It’s a useful distinction in the arts that one uses to separate Carly Simon from Stevie Wonder. In sports, it’s a borderline meaningless turn of phrase that becomes absolutely meaningless when applied to one game.

  2. Ceetar

    I have to agree with Rex. What the Mets do with this game has nothing to do with good/great. Great teams win these games roughly 65% of the time. roughly their winning percentage for the entire season. What makes this team ‘great’ is that ‘analysts’ spend all Thursday talking about signing for 5-5 on this trip, or even 4-6(Michael Kay for one..barely counts). They’re off to a 3-0 start. They looked at the road trip and decided, “No, we’re a winning ballclub, and we’re going to do just that. win.” The Mets can win today. they can beat LA, and the Sox may be harder..but they can beat them too.

    As for Joba..I don’t know that th solution of ‘more pitches’ is brilliant. They’re already concerned about his pitch count, and even if these “Don’t count” they’re still arm strain. If his emotion really gets in his way at times, he’s going to be exploitable. In fact, him having issues with the first inning is a much bigger deal than relievers having issues pitching in non-save situations and innings.

  3. Joe DeMayo

    12-3 in the month of May is what I consider great. Whether they get the sweep or not tonight in San Fran doesn’t change good or great.

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