Jockbeat: What We Did, and Didn't Predict about the Mets/Yankees Matchup
"The odds seem pretty good that the Yankees can take at least two of three, most likely the first two. Joba Chamberlain ... has been pitching very well of late, only 3-1 for the season but solid in two no-decision starts ...
"Saturday the odds are even better for the Yankees with Andy Pettitte (6-2) going against a pitcher to be named later ... Right now the reports are that it will be Fernando Nieve, who hasn't started a major league game since 2006 when he was with Houston ...
"We regard Sunday's game as a lock for the Mets. Johan Santana is simply the best pitcher in baseball. And games like this is what he came to New York for. A.J. Burnett is an overrated bust -- no cream pie for you, pal."
As you can see, our predictions for the Yankees-Mets series were spot-on for each game -- and the Yankees did indeed win two out of three! All we got wrong were the specifics of all three games. So, what did the first Subway Series tell us about the Yankees and Mets? Some observations...
-- The Yankees are continuing to mishandle Joba Chamberlain, who seemed about as aimless Friday night as it's possible for a young pitcher to be. In the second inning, Chamberlain threw more than 40 pitches -- more than one-third of his expected total per game -- during one dizzying ten-minute span and shook off Jorge Posada no less than seven times and caused Posada to call time and walk out to the mound no less than three times. (Putting undue stress on Jorge's 37-year-old legs.)
Who, exactly, is in charge here? Posada, manager Joe Girardi, or pitching coach Dave "No Man Is An" Eiland? No one, it seems, when Chamberlain is pitching. Someone needs to give Joba a Zen slap and tell him to trust his catcher or ask for a trade. An amazing eleven times in the game he had two strikes on a batter and could not close the deal. Seven of those hitters reached base, and Joba used up 15 pitches on hitters after he had thrown two strikes without being able to get a strikeout. Tack up a little sign and put it in Joba's locker: "Suzyn Waldman is full of crap. Great pitchers are strikeout pitchers."
-- The Mets' talent for losing winnable games is virtually infinite. Just ask Luis "Lo tengo" Castillo. But the oddest thing about the Mets this season is the hitting. They are currently tied with the Angels and Dodgers for the major league lead in batting, .279, but without David Wright and Carlos Beltran the Mets would be batting around .259, which would put them tied at 16th with the Washington Nationals.
How good have Wright and Beltran been so far? The Mets have had just one .350 hitter in franchise history, John Olerud in 1998 at .354. Both Beltran (.344) and Wright (.364) are well positioned to top that, and however they finish, Wright and Beltran will probably make for the best combined batting average of any two teammates in Mets history. (The anemia of the rest of the batting order without Jose Reyes and Carlos Delgado is jaw-dropping. The entire lineup, outside of Wright and Beltran, has produced just 28 home runs so far.)
Another oddity is that Wright, though he is hitting everything thrown at him, has hit only four home runs this year when twice or even three times that total would seem likely. We assume this will straighten itself out. Meanwhile, Omar Minaya had best be on the lookout to acquire another lively bat.
-- Far more important, though, is Johan Santana's baffling decline in performance over his last six starts. As Adam Rubin noted in today's Daily News, Santana has given up 26 earned runs in his last 36 innings for an ERA of 6.50. This after his first six starts, when his ERA was hovering around one run per game and threatening to drop lower than the ethical standards of a Fox News editorial. The problem seems to be not Santana's fabled change-up but his velocity: his fastest pitch yesterday was only 92 mph, and four-fifths of his throws clocked in under 90 mph. As John Sterling noted on the Yankees broadcast, "The change-up may be Johan's best pitch, but it only works if it's thrown after a live fastball."
So far, there's no coherent explanation in Santana's tailspin, though Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen offers a comforting explanation: blisters. "He recently had a blister on his left middle finger," Warthen told writers after Sunday's game. "He's had to change his grip as a result, and his four-seamer has lost some velocity. I wouldn't worry. Physically he's in great shape and his arm is fine. The blister has healed, though is finger is still sore, and he's got to return to the grip he's used the whole season, the one he's used his whole career. That will happen."
It better, or we can all give a middle-finger to the rest of the Mets' season.