Point: Counterpoint with Kevin Kernan


“The Mets, so far, have learned their lesson under Jerry Manuel. It’s the 1970s again. That means it’s all about pounding the strike zone.

That’s the reason for their recent success. The starters’ ERA of 1.28 over the last 11 games is so impressive that you have to go back to 1991 to find similar numbers, according to Elias Sports Bureau”

But, that being said, almost everything he wrote in today’s column article is wrong.

That’s the winning formula. Don’t be fooled by the fact that going into last night, the Mets led the National League in walks issued with 84.

Mets led the league with 95 walks going into last night. The Dodgers, who are not the Mets, had issued 84 walks.
A lot of those walks were done with a “Pujols purpose,” not to let the opponent’s best hitter beat them. The Mets lead the NL in intentional walks with 10
Per Baseball Reference:































LAD 4.92 162.2 84 10
BAL 4.73 163.2 61 9
CHW 4.45 172.0 84 8
WSN 5.01 181.1 83 8
NYM 3.17 176.0 95 7
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/27/2010.

The Dodgers, who are not the Mets, lead the league in IBB with 10. The Mets are fifth with 7 intentional walks. Fangraphs confirms with the same numbers.

That’s fine, an innocent enough screw up, seeing that the teams are playing each other and both walk a lot of guys. The Mets have still walked too many guys. We can let the occasional factual error slide, no?

But still, the entire premise of this article is that the Mets are succeeding because they’re pounding the strike zone, and to back that up, all that Kernan provides is evidence that the Mets are walking too many people.

Or, to rephrase the entire premise of the article and the evidence provided to support it: The Mets are succeeding because they are doing X. Here is some evidence that says the Mets are in fact not doing X, but are actually doing the opposite of X. Still, the Mets are succeeding because they’re doing X.

When you have the super-competitive Johan Santana, who will start today’s first game, leading your staff, a pitcher who does nothing but pound the strike zone, the system can run itself.

2010 Mets percentage of pitches thrown for strikes: 62%

2010 MLB percentage of pitches thrown for strikes: 62%

That peer pressure raises the competitive levels of Oliver Perez, who will start today’s second game.Perez’s velocity is down, but throwing strikes is the name of the game.

This works for starters and relievers. It’s so simple, all teams should be doing it, but so many teams have gotten caught up in ridiculous statistics, they have forgotten about the most important fact and that’s throwing strikes.

Yes, if you don’t throw any strikes, you will walk every batter, never record any outs, and lose every game by the score of infinity to zero. So, in a way, throwing strikes is the most important thing to do.

On the other hand, if you threw every pitch right down Broadway for a strike, you would also lose every game by the score of 100,000 to 5, or something. So, no pitches for strikes = bad, but every pitch for a strike also = bad.

But, again, the Mets are throwing strikes at the league average rate – in other words, the Mets are throwing strikes exactly as often as everyone else is, 62% of the time. They’re not throwing any more, they’re not throwing any less.

The Twins, who have thrown strikes more often than any other team, are seventh-best in runs allowed. The Astros, who have thrown the second greatest percentage of strikes, are fourteenth in runs allowed. Last season, the Orioles allowed more runs per game than any other team, but threw strikes as often as the rest of the majors did.

The best pitch in baseball is not a fastball, not a slider, not a cutter and not a curve. The best pitch in baseball is strike one.

Tom Seaver likes to say that the most important pitch is strike one, so I’ll agree with that assertion. But hey, guess what, the Mets aren’t throwing the first pitch of an at-bat for strike one any more often than anyone else is.

2010 Mets first pitch strike percentage: 57%

2010 MLB first pitch strike percentage: 57%

I would also argue that Mariano Rivera probably throws the best pitch in baseball, though I would also accept that if someone threw a 10000 MPH fastball with pinpoint accuracy, that would be the best pitch in baseball. 

The Mets staff owns a 3.17 ERA, fifth lowest in the majors. The pitchers have notched 153 strikeouts; in the majors, only the White Sox and Cubs have more.

You have to play defense, run the bases well and get timely hits for this to work, but it all starts with pounding the strike zone . . .  The game is back to its roots: If you pound the strike zone, you can’t lose.

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Filed under Mets, Statistics, Words

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