Transcript Of Bobby Ojeda's Chat With Mets Bloggers And A Brief Pat LaFrieda Steak Sandwich Review

On Wednesday evening, the Mets hosted a bloggers' night at Citi Field in which we were able to speak to Bobby Ojeda before for a few minutes before the game and sample the new Pat LaFrieda steak sandwich.

Before I get to the Ojeda part of the evening, I'll offer a brief review of the sandwich: it's great. You can check out Ted Berg's full review for the expert opinion, but I'll just add that I agree with Ted that it's worth the steep price of $15 because it's that good. It's not worth waiting in line for innings on end during a game — no sandwich is, there's a baseball game to watch, dammit — but it's worth the wait if you happen to find yourself in a line during batting practice.

As for Ojeda, he seemed just like he does on television. I got to ask him a couple of questions, and the full transcript of the conversation is below.

Chris McShane: I know in the post-game, a lot of times you praise hitters when they’re aggressive. So does that play into why you like that in a hitter? Are there specific players on the team you’d like to see be more aggressive, or do you think they’re all a little too patient?

Ojeda: There again, your approach, it’s important that your approach is individual for two reasons. One, what makes you tick is different than what makes him tick, him, him. I don’t know what makes him tick, but there’s certain guidelines I want you within. But I’ve got to individualize my approach with you.

On the flipside of it, I’m a starting pitcher. I know your approach, your approach, your approach [points at different people] are all similar. Well, guess what? I’m going to use that against all of you guys. Now I’m not facing eight bats, I’m facing two. If you all have a varied approach, I have to counter, so I can’t lock in and just shut you down, which is what you see when you have blanket approaches. So the individual approach is important for you as an individual, but it’s also strategy. I’m making that pitcher think and alter his approach.

McShane: You mentioned the distribution of pitches in the past. Do you get into PITCH f/x at all now when you’re looking a Mets pitchers, what they throw, and how often they throw it?

Ojeda: I do because there’s validity to it to a certain extent, but at the same time, you shouldn’t be working on anything at the major-league level other than getting people out. On any given day, all I want to do is get you out. I don’t want to throw 15 sliders because I’m supposed to throw 15 sliders. I don’t give a shit. I want to get you out. If I need to throw sliders, I’ll go into my bullpen the day after and I’ll work on my slider and eventually work it into the game. Or, I’ll throw it when it’s not expensive. Two outs, nobody on, let me just flip one in there just for fun against some lousy hitter, just to see. Now if he gets a hit, big deal, I’ve got maybe the pitcher up next. I’ll pick my spots to throw it because I do need to throw it, but overall, you know what, I want to get you out. I’m not working on anything.

Now, minor leagues are entirely different. I need you to throw 25 sliders today, you better throw 25 sliders, or you’re not going to go up. You’re not going to go to the next level. That’s different.

Here, get them out. Because if you throw 100 fastballs and get them out, you are the greatest guy in the world. If you throw 100 curveballs and get them out, you are the greatest guy in the world. It’s not about percentage, it’s about getting people out.

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The full transcript, with my questions in the context of the conversation, is below.

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Jason Fry (Faith and Fear in Flushing): One thing I think we all enjoy is that, after games, you don’t exactly hold back based on what you see, and has that been the approach from the beginning, or has there been a back and forth between you and the team on what you say and how it’s received?

Bobby Ojeda: I’ll tell you from the beginning, I got great advice and fair advice from Curt Gowdy Jr., who brought me on. He said, "I want you to be fair, I want you to be honest, and I want you to tell me something I don’t know." That is from the network, and that’s about as honest as you can be. That’s not, "hey, we need you to spin it, we need you to color it up." It was strictly honest with me, and then I took it one other level. For me, personally, there’s nothing that I say on air that I wouldn’t say to a guy’s face because it’s too easy to sit there and take shots — and it used to bug me as a player, guys taking shots at me — and it’s part of the game, and you have to have a thick skin and that type of thing, but I’m in a position where, having worn both hats, I won’t do it. I think I can be fair and honest without taking cheap shots. I can give my opionion and hit the line and stop rather that go — that’s sort of my governor.

Stephen Keane (Ed Kranepool Society): I’ve got a question about the bullpen management. I know it’s tough now with the injuries that the team has had, but now Frank Francisco back, knowing Byrdak won’t be back. How tough is it for Terry [Collins] and Dan [Warthen] to put guys in a spot where they know what their job is going to be — who’s the eighth inning guy, who’s the seventh inning guy, who’s the lefty like [Josh] Edgin coming in to get a lefty out? How important is that for a manger to establish that with his pitchers?

Ojeda: It’s important, but you always understand it’s a fluid situaiton as we’ve seen this year — and other clubs — you have more flexibility in your bullpen. Guys do get hurt, guys do fail, and so the rules are a little more interchangeable. Your starting staff is usually: that is what it is. With that, at this point of the season, you’d like to have those roles established, but those roles now are not as defined as they used to be — thank goodness — because the pitch count nonsense that was overblown, over the top, has dissipated. I think it’s a pendulum...

I mean that is diminished so we don’t have a game segmented like it used to be. "Well, you’re going to pitch five, you’re going to pitch the sixth, seventh," which was nonsense. People who didn’t play the game made up those rules and ran with them. It gave them something to sell, and we bought it for a while.

The game now has evolved into more of, "we’re going to let that pitcher go a reasonable amount of pitches — 100 to 120 rather than 102.5." So you don’t have those, "he’s my seventh, he’s my eighth," you have your ninth. You always have the closer because the closer because a closer’s a specialty. That’s a guy who — I could never be a closer — those guys have ice water, they do a job that not many can do, a specialty. But the other middle guys are much more specialized. You mentioned the left-handed specialist, that is something that’s alive and well, and it should be because the numbers lefty-lefty, if you check stats, the most difficult matchup is lefty-lefty, for whatever reason. I’ve played the game, I don’t know why, but lefty-lefty works. That rule will always be there, but the other ones are interchangeable. Where Terry’s at right now is he’s still trying to define that because having just lost Byrdak, because now having brought up Edgin — and Egin I think is a bit of a hybrid because I think he can get out righties as well, which is a bonus, which is what you want. So it’s an evolution out there, it’s a difficult job. And from here on out, he’s going to manage this to win games, but at the same time they’re taking notes because they want to know as you build your team moving forward who’s going to be part of your team and who’s not.

Keane: Now a question about Matt Harvey: I love watching him pitch, the way his body is, he’s got that lower body that’s kind of big sized, that looks like a power pitcher, perfect for a power pitcher. What do you see especially when he drives off that back leg? That’s kind of an old-school move he has. What’s your impression so far?

Ojeda: It is. Well, I love the delivery. It’s just a classic delivery, as you say he uses his entire body. Most pitchers do, his is very noticeable. He’s a big, strong kid, he’s thick, he throws what — it’s a phenomenon, none of us know how to do it because if we did we’d do it — he knows how to throw a heavy ball. The ball comes in, it’s like throwing a bowling ball. I don’t know how they do it. When you play catch with a guy, and I used to as a player, they throw it to you, and it hits your glove, and it just keeps digging in your glove. He has that ability now with that great delivery, heavy ball, nice movement, and he’s a student of the game. A great example for a guy being part of the future.

Greg Prince (Faith and Fear in Flushing): Bobby, I’ve heard a phrase in the last couple of years when they talk about a "little cutter," a "little slider," everything seems to be "little" these days. I was curious: a. what that means exactly and b. is that a way of saying that, in the world of pitching, anything that isn’t a fastball isn’t considered a "big" pitch?

Ojeda: I think it’s just a word, a descriptive word people use. I don’t think it’s insomuch of its little meaning as much as the depth of it. You’ll hear, "he’s got a deep slider, it’s got some tilt to it." We all know tilt, this [gestures as if he’s throwing a slider] is the tilt of a slider. The cutter’s a little bit flatter. The cutter is meant to go in and just get off of the barrel and get inside the label, if you will. That’s the cutter. So when they say, "he’s got a little cutter," it’s just a term that we throw out there when you have to talk every single day — or write every day, as you guys know — you throw out words, you don’t really mean it as it’s written, you mean it as mildly descriptive.

Matthew Falkenbury: (The Daily Stache): You see the success like in Texas where they kind of scrap pitching counts, and then you see Justin Verlander throw 130 pitches the other day in only eight innings. Why do you think most teams keep going with the pitch counts when they’ve seen success like with Verlander and success in Texas where they’ve scrapped pitch counts?

(Ed. Note: On pitch counts in Texas via Lone Star Ball.)

Ojeda: Because some teams are slow learners. Some GMs are just, you know, the problem with this game, is a lot of people think they’ve got it figured out. There’s no figuring this game out.

You try to do your best from a pitching standpoint. Common sense: 100 to 125, 130. That’s sort of a common sense range. Now, would I want you to throw 130 every time out? No way! But on a given day, I watch your delivery. A lot of times these stat guys, who are into 108.3 pitches, they look at a pitcher, but they don’t know what they see. Experienced guys like Nolan Ryan, he looks at a pitcher like the trainer of a racehorse. I can look at ten horses run, I see ten horses running, that’s all I see. When you understand the nuance of the gate of that horse, and you understand the nuance of your delivery, then I can gauge 115 to you may be like 80 to him. You see, it’s not cut and dry. You can’t cookie-cutter individual pitchers or hitters. They’re all different so you have have an open mind and you have to get to know them.

Yes, you have your stats, but the most important thing and the best scouts and the best GMs — like Nolan Ryan, look at his success — is his eyeballs.

Chris McShane: I know in the post-game, a lot of times you praise hitters when they’re aggressive. So does that play into why you like that in a hitter? Are there specific players on the team you’d like to see be more aggressive, or do you think they’re all a little too patient?

Ojeda: There again, your approach, it’s important that your approach is individual for two reasons. One, what makes you tick is different than what makes him tick, him, him. I don’t know what makes him tick, but there’s certain guidelines I want you within. But I’ve got to individualize my approach with you.

On the flipside of it, I’m a starting pitcher. I know your approach, your approach, your approach are all similar. Well, guess what? I’m going to use against all of you guys. Now I’m not facing eight bats, I’m facing two. If you all have a varied approach, I have to counter, so I can’t lock in and just shut you down, which is what you see when you have blanket approaches. So the individual approach is important for you as an individual, but it’s also strategy. I’m making that pitcher think and alter his approach.

Keane: So how much percentage would you put on the mental part of pitching to where you look at a batter and you think to yourself, "this is how I have to approach this to get him out," being that you have the physical ability, how much of that is the mental part?

Ojeda: I could throw out any kind of number, but let me tell you this: it’s the trump card. If mentally I’m locked in to how to get you out, not a scouting report, if mentally I’m locked into reading you, how I’m going to get you out, if mentally I know who I am, I can’t go on with percentage, but that’s all mental, that’s not physical. Then I execute the pitch — that’s physical. But I have the ability to execute the pitch, I’ll still make mistakes. But the mental part, I have to do the mental math before I throw it, and that’s what makes the good ones up here really good.

Fry: You have a World Series ring as a pitcher, you’ve been a pitching coach, you continue to dissect pitching in what you do now. Let me just say Niese’s performance last night, you had some things to say about approach and the mental aspect of the game. Now, do you have an avenue for bringing that to the pitcher, or is that something you cannot do in that situation? Or, if there is an avenue, how do you bring those things to his attention?

Ojeda: Pitching coaches are invested in their guys so much, and they know their guys better than I do in the casual thing. I know the overall pitching because I watch every game, but that’s not my role nor my place. Now, if one of the guys asks me a question, I’ll gladly answer that.

Fry: Do they do that?

Ojeda: Sometimes.

Question: I feel like when you played, the switch from the National League to the American League could really kind of turn it up and dominante. Was there something to that?

Ojeda: I think if you had success, people said, "oh, well he switched leagues." A lot of guys switched leagues and failed, but we forget about them. So it’s become a cliche, "oh, well he’s new to the league." Nonsense. I still have to execute pitches. Now, was there a difference back then, more breaking balls in the American League and more fastballs in the National League? Perhaps. I don’t know. I’ve never seen anything to quantify it. It’s one of those things we kind of think happened. As far as switching leagues, having success, I would guarantee you more failed. But a guy who had success, "oh, he switched leagues."

Keane: To go back to the talk about the mental part of the game, a kid like Chris Schwinden, he was great pitching in Triple-A, he was terrific with Buffalo, and when he came up here, he didn’t have success. What’s the difference? He has the talent, even when the Mets let him go, three other teams claimed him. What is the difference between succeeding in Triple-A and coming up here?

Ojeda: See this big yard, these big lights, all these people? It can overwhelm guys. Because honest to god, players, we’re all the same. These guys are just like Little Leaguers. They’re the same thing. Some get nervous, some get more nervous. Some could care less. Some have so much talent that it’s easy. Most are somewhere in the middle, and you have to handle your nerves. You have to handle the environment, you have to handle the pressure. That, sometimes for some guys, is too much.

McShane: You mentioned the distribution of pitches in the past. Do you get into PITCH f/x at all now when you’re looking a Mets pitchers, what they throw, and how often they throw it?

Ojeda: I do because there’s validity to it to a certain extent, but at the same time, you shouldn’t be working on anything at the major-league level other than getting people out. On any given day, all I want to do is get you out. I don’t want to throw 15 sliders because I’m supposed to throw 15 sliders. I don’t give a shit. I want to get you out. If I need to throw sliders, I’ll go into my bullpen the day after and I’ll work on my slider and eventually work it into the game. Or, I’ll throw it when it’s not expensive. Two outs, nobody on, let me just flip one in there just for fun against some lousy hitter, just to see. Now if he gets a hit, big deal, I’ve got maybe the pitcher up next. I’ll pick my spots to throw it because I do need to throw it, but overall, you know what, I want to get you out. I’m not working on anything.

Now, minor leagues are entirely different. I need you to throw 25 sliders today, you better throw 25 sliders, or you’re not going to go up. You’re not going to go to the next level. That’s different.

Here, get them out. Because if you throw 100 fastballs and get them out, you are the greatest guy in the world. If you throw 100 curveballs and get them out, you are the greatest guy in the world. It’s not about percentage, it’s about getting people out.

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