While the Mets and Yankees played just two games this weekend, due to a Friday night rainout, there were a few illuminating aspects to both games for the heretofore struggling New York teams.
Wang’s Increased Use of Slider is Double-Edged Sword
As Chien-Ming Wang rocketed to a 6-0 start, it was his strikeout rate that was particularly encouraging. At just over 4 per nine innings through 2007, he’d posted a rate of 6.4 strikeouts per nine innings, which, combined with his ability to generate ground balls, would have created a monstrously effective, and far less fielding-reliant pitcher.
But over his past three starts, Wang has begun to leave the slider, the pitch that seemed to create more swings and misses, up in the strike zone. Not only is it far easier to get extra-base hits against Wang when he does so, but each slider Wang throws is one fewer sinker that are likely to pound into the ground. Thus, a consistent increase in his use of the slider will allow him to strikeout more hitters, yes—but the pitch, which he clearly doesn’t yet command as well as his sinker, makes him more like other pitchers. And after his past three starts, Wang’s strikeout rate now stands at an ordinary 5.2 per nine innings.
Oliver Perez May Not Need Fixing After All
While various media reports (and Billy Wagner, the teammate who cried traitor) had Oliver Perez headed to the scrap heap after a poor April 30 performance, Perez has gone at least six innings in each of his last three starts, posting a 3.66 ERA, walking 8 and striking out 15 in 19 2/3 innings, with each start better than the last. Sunday night, his start was cut short not by ineffectiveness, but merely to save him with an 11-2 lead, after he’d retired six in a row.
Derek Jeter is Still the Ultimate Met Killer
After putting up a 4-for-7 weekend against the Mets, Derek Jeter has posted a .386/.436/.602 line against them in 254 career at-bats. Jeter hit a two-run home run as the keynote address for Saturday’s game, and singled ahead of the Yankees’ two-run blast from Hideki Matsui Sunday.
By contrast, Chipper Jones, who has a much better established Met-killing reputation, has posted a line of just .328/.417/.569, a good 52 points of OPS below Jeter’s. The Phillies have a pair of Met-bedevilers, Pat Burrell (.251/.364/.546) and Jimmy Rollins (.269/.327/.450). None of them measures up to Jeter.
Certainly, four World Series titles in Jeter’s first five seasons helped to create his legend. And it’s easy to see how his performances against the Mets, as strange as it may seem, have been an afterthought.
Wright May Be the Mets’ Jeter
David Wright terrorizes the Yankees at a greater clip than Jeter kills the Mets. Wright entered Sunday’s game with a career mark of .343/.425/.671, good for a 1096 OPS. He added a single and a double to his totals Sunday night.
How differently might Wright be perceived if the Mets had held on to win the 2007 NL East title? Well, he hit .394/.516/.657 in August 2007, .352/.432/.602 in September 2007, and likely would have cruised to his first MVP award. Make no mistake about it: Wright didn’t collapse last year, and certainly doesn’t seem to have a problem shining on New York’s biggest stage.
There Is Life In Carlos Delgado’s Bat
Leave aside that Delgado was robbed of a home run last night by a terrible call from the umpires, or that Delgado is now hitting .281/.321/.453 in May, which is well within the realm of acceptable for the first baseman. Delgado managed a ninth-inning RBI single Saturday against Joba Chamberlain, fighting off pitches and pulling an inside fastball into right field.
Delgado pulling a 98-MPH offering from Chamberlain is the surest sign yet that he can provide the Mets with the decent bat they need at first base—he seemed chronically unable to reach such pitches for nearly all of 2007, but has done so repeatedly over the past several weeks. To pull Chamberlain makes a statement—Delgado isn’t likely to get inside fastballs much quicker than Joba’s.
Baseball Needs Instant Replay for Home Runs
No one is calling for an end to umpires. But when the vast majority of regular season games involve four umpires, none closer to the outfield wall than second base, calls that often involve multiple-run swings need to be addressed, quickly and forcefully, by using the video technology available to anyone with a laptop. And as anyone with that laptop could see, the umpires got Carlos Delgado’s fourth-inning drive off the left-field foul pole wrong.
And no, this will not slow the game down. Taking 60 seconds to make a final ruling is in no way slower than taking five minutes to discuss, followed by an argument by one manager, after which the call is overturned, which then leads to a second manager discussion, followed by an ejection, and another five minutes of said manager “getting his money’s worth.”
Notice how managers don’t argue balls and strikes, because they are ejected automatically when they do. Apply the same rule to instant replay home run calls, which are likely to pop up once a month per team at most, anyway. The failure to do so actually slows down the game—and someday soon, a team is going to win or lose a pennant over it.