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Jockbeat: What We Did, and Didn’t Predict about the Mets/Yankees Matchup

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From our Friday Jockbeat on the Yankees-Mets:
 
“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. 

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