Any sufficiently progressive and sabermetrically-minded baseball team can develop systems to find the next diamond in the rough, but few teams are as brave as the Giants and Mets, who’ve instead devised their own methods of cultivating the rough. Tonight, two patches of diamond-free rough slammed into each other at 100 mph, catching every single one of us who listened to or watched that game in the ensuing crap tornado.
The Giants and Mets played 13 innings of baseball (the Giants won 2-1) in the same way that two metal garbage cans roll down opposite sides of a hill until they bump into each other at the bottom of the creek are “playing”. This wasn’t a friendly game of trashcan ball, though. This was... well, it was an experiment. Could two teams try not to win and still succeed? And what is the measure of success?
The Giants stranded baserunners all night long. They had runners at second and third with nobody out in the fifth. Three strikeouts in a row. Alen Hanson popped up a 96 mph fastball in the top of the seventh inning on Zack Wheeler’s 111th pitch of the night that spiraled along the third base line before hitting the grass in fair territory and tied the game at 1. And then the game dragged on into extra innings.
Around the Giants’ scoring and the Mets’ early run were strikeouts, defensive lapses, and soft groundouts and flyballs by both teams. Derek Holland needed 22 pitches to get through the first inning, the second start in the row where he’s been harangued by his own pitch count, but was still effective enough for five innings. Still, it’s a question of just how effective was he, given the opposition?
For the Mets, Zack Wheeler was dominant. All of his pitches were working. We saw Wheeler’s ceiling tonight. He featured a 93 mph slider, a darting 87 mph splitter, tight curveball, and was flashing 98 mph with his fastball on his 109th pitch of the night. He set down ten in a row from the end of the first inning through the fourth inning. Still, it’s a question of just how effective was he, given the opposition?
Opposing starters regularly no-hit or dominate the Giants through the first 3-4 innings. That’s on a nightly basis and has gone on for over a month. There’s no question that that’s a thing. To the Giants’ credit, the Mets have been really bad all season long, so they were able to seize on that non-momentum of sorts to show their own display of pitching and defensive dominance. The Giants had three double plays in this game, back-to-back for the 6th and 7th, and then a strike ‘em out-throw ‘em out in the bottom of the 10th.
Not to be outdone, #ForeverGiant Austin Jackson made a great diving catch of a Brandon Belt fly ball in the first inning.
I’m including this in the post because we were deprived of any Austin Jackson highlights all year when he was with the Giants and we deserve this, dammit. It’s nice to see that Jackson has managed to turn around his season with the Mets — he was only 1-for-6 tonight with 5 left on base, but had a .980 OPS in 77 at bats coming into the game — but that play suggested the tone had been set for the evening: the Giants were boned.
But the combination of Derek Holland, the Giants’ bullpen, and the Mets created the night’s ultimate tone:
I’m just sad that both teams can’t lose this game.— Grant Brisbee (@GrantBrisbee) August 21, 2018
When the Giants weren’t being overmatched by Wheeler and the Mets’ ‘pen, they looked bad at the plate, swinging through strikes, swinging at bad pitches, and making weak contact on everything else. If I’m repeating myself, it’s only because the Giants repeated themselves, too. All night long.
I’m calling this anti-Moneyball version of baseball Mondayball, both because this game was played on a Monday and because it felt like the Monday of baseball games. Did either team want to be there? Eh. Maybe. Probably. They knew they had to get up and go to work. Both were suffering from a weekend hangover: the Giants desperately trying to forget all their poor decisions and the Mets riding the high of embarrassing the Phillies. They had the muscle memory to do the job, but that foggy energy that only gave them enough to mechanically go through the motions.
But Mondayball doesn’t demand the best players or peak performance. It only demands that you show up and muddle through. There are 162 games in a season. They’ve got to be played. Field a team and get it done. Mondayball is all about grinding through a schedule. Only the snooty, highfalutin ivy league general managers get caught up in rate stats and measuring performance. Mondayball asks a simple question: is the player alive and wearing a uniform? If yes, then great, it’s a success!
This is what two struggling teams look like in August: mostly bad and entirely painful.
... with two exceptions ...
- Zack Wheeler looked like he had something to prove, with a simply incredible 10 strikeouts in 7 innings performance.
- Derek Law has been really bad since the tail end of 2016 / the beginning of 2017, but came out tonight throwing 97 mph and working his curveball effectively down out of the zone. He had bite, velocity, and movement, and even though he walked two to make trouble for himself in the bottom of the 13th, his second inning of work, he held on.
I’m leaving out the entire bullpens of both teams, which really did throw great performances, despite the competition. Neither pitching staff deserved the loss tonight, but it’s a team sport driven by individual performances, and the Mets’ pitchers lost because of all their individual hitters.
That’s how the Giants scored the game-winning run. Domonic Smith’s face is a case of the Mondays. The Giants winning this game because of a collision is a case of the Mondays.
The Giants winning this game because of a pop-up is all sorts of screwy. You’ll see it happen every so often, but usually to lucky and good teams. Tonight, a mediocre team ran into the Mets. The unwatchable object versus the unmet-able force. It was rough. Developing the rough, however, is what Mondayball is all about. And just how Moneyball went on to set baseball’s future, so too will Mondayball set the course for the Mets’ and Giants’.
Tomorrow, we’ll find out if Tuesdyball can be as successful.