In what was billed "the F-15 vs. the butterfly", R.A. Dickey and his fluttering knuckler outdueled Stephen Strasburg and his Sidewinder missile fastballs. Dickey gave up two runs (both unearned) in seven strong innings of work, striking out four and walking two. Strasburg lasted just five innings and the Mets reached base seven times against him. Unfortunately, the LOLpen couldn't hold the 5-2 lead it was handed in the eighth inning. Bobby Parnell unleashed fastball after fastball (25 of his 26 pitches), surrendering one run in his inning of work. No bother right? Francisco Rodriguez, the jewel of Omar's relief corps, should be able to to hold a two-run lead, especially with Cristian Guzman (.706 OPS), Nyjer Morgan (.646 OPS) and Willie Harris (.570 OPS) due up. Right? Wrong. Frankie walked Guzman on four pitches to start things off, Adam Dunn tied it with a two-run double four batters later and Ivan Rodriguez hit an RBI single to end the damn thing.
Frankie deserves to be slammed for his performance today. However, I'll play devil's advocate and point out that he's actually having a pretty good season. His strikeout rate is at its highest since 2007 and his walk rate is the lowest of his career. While it does seem like every game he enters turns into an adventure, the same can be said about most closers in baseball, except maybe Mariano. There is nothing wrong with cursing him as a reflex for a frustrating game, but once the initial period of anger wears off his effectiveness this season should be recognized. It's also worth noting that he's on pace to throw 82 innings, the most since 2004. There is no other crossover reliever capable of getting out both lefties and righties -- Frankie is doing it all on his own. .
Josh Thole did well for himself and his team, grinding out tough at-bats all day. His 11 pitch plate appearance in the first inning ended in a walk and contributed to Strasburg's early exit after 96 pitches. Thole was 2-for-3 with a double and a walk. I don't know if he will be in the organization much longer -- he's certainly upping his trade value. I do, however, know the following:
- Keeping three catchers on the roster is not smart.
- Rod Barajas is regressing to his expected performance, which entails making outs roughly 72% of the time (not good).
- Henry Blanco is preferable to Barajas, both offensively and defensively.
Something's gotta give.
Ike Davis was on base three times, a rarity given his recent struggles. He failed to drive in an insurance run in the ninth inning with Angel Pagan on third base and only one out. David Wright had another multi-hit game, ho-hum, no big deal. Jeff Francoeur went 0-for-3 with an intentional walk. That's his sixth of the year, mainly because of all the time he spent batting eighth in the order. His unintentional walk rate is the 2nd lowest of his career and he's on pace for 36 free passes (including the intentional walks). This past offseason, he reiterated his annual plan to "mix in 50 or 60 walks" and, barring a miracle, that won't happen. That's 3200+ MLB plate appearances and nothing has changed. Same old terrible approach. Same hacking at every pitch thrown in his general direction. Hey Jeff: when you say it's gonna happen now, when exactly do you mean?
Here are some fun Francoeur facts:
- He has the lowest wOBA of any starting right fielder in MLB.
- Wilson Valdez has a higher slugging percentage than Frenchy. Yeah, that Wilson Valdez.
- Only Vladimir Guerrero and A.J. Pierzynski have swung at a higher percentage of pitches outside the strike zone.
The Fox Broadcast
I can't remember a more disgraceful game broadcast. Joe Buck sounds bored to tears, as if he has somewhere else more important to be. I say go, Joe. Go hang out with people more important than fans tuning in to watch afternoon baseball on Fourth of July weekend.
Kevin Millar played sidekick to Buck, and had me longing for Tim McCarver. He was insufferable as a player ("Cowboy Up!", barf) and is worse as a broadcaster. He had no chemistry with Buck and it seemed like neither liked the other. Millar spent most of the game praising the crappy players on the Mets roster while barely mentioning the beast of a season Wright is enjoying. Francoeur and Alex Cora (who did have a big triple today) were the objects of Millar's affection. Here are some more-or-less word-for-word quotes from Millar. Some might have been said by Buck but I was laughing too hard to note who was speaking:
- On Frenchy's intangibles, or something: "He's telling guys when to shave, when not to shave."
- The shaving thing was an ongoing topic, for some reason: "If he's [Francoeur] not worrying about shaving he can steal a few bases."
- "Alex Cora has done a nice job coming off the bench."
- "He [Cora] is a big piece of the puzzle for this team."
I've had enough of people praising bad players. These two have accumulated a combined 0.4 FanGraphs WAR and the season is halfway over. And they're making $7 million. Yes, they are the reason why the Mets are 45-36.
If all that wasn't enough, much of the broadcast was spent talking about NBA free agency. The "journalism" and "reporting" ongoing with the Lebron-Wade-Bosh situation is an embarrassment to begin with -- I don't need it polluting my baseball games. I fully expect Phil Mushnick or Bob Raissman or one of those other crankier-than-me sports media critics to skewer the Fox production.
Unintentionally sexual quote of the game: "Thole's done a nice job back there, receiving Dickey." - Joe Buck (via CPP)
"I've never had Popov before, but it has a reputation like that of Aristocrat. The aroma itself is enough to make me feel bad. The large yellow "Now! Unbreakable bottle" is mocking me because I wish I could break the bottle to avoid this tasting."-- VodkaBuzz review
If this young Strasburg hopes to succeed
He'd throw a knuckler and leave with the lead
Instead it's Dickey who draws the most raves
Sadly, it seems K-Rod's swearing off saves
Big winners: Josh Thole +23.0%, Alex Cora +21.7%
Big losers: Francisco Rodriguez -89.9%, Jeff Francoeur -10.9%
Teh aw3s0mest play: Alex Cora triple +20.5%
Teh sux0rest play: Adam Dunn two-run double -50.7%
Total pitcher WPA: -72.0%
Total batter WPA: +22.0%
GWRBI!: Ivan Rodriguez
Nice job by KeithsMoustache; his effort in the game thread embiggens us all.
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