From frequent (only) blog commentator” Nigel Fowler:”
Unless you plan to discuss this on the blog, could you please explain to me why Gandolph removed the estimable Vargas and replaced him with the hapless Thielman, who thereafter lost the game?
Could you also explain why Gandolph had Joe Smith pitch to one (1) person, with demonstrable skill, then replaced him?
If I didn't know better I'd wonder if he was trying to throw the game.But perhaps there are things I don't understand.
Unrelatedly, where's the best place to purchase Mets Caps (including a small child's one)? I have a request from England for baseball caps.
I didn’t actually get to catch the game, so I’m going off of the Post, metsblog and gameday (which actually gives you complete play-by-play information for past games, which is pretty cool— if you ever get asked questions about games that you didn’t watch.)
Anyhow, when Vargas was taken out he had thrown 97 pitches, and the Mets seem to like to limit their starters to around a hundred pitches, whenever possible. Pitch counts are very common in baseball now and, if you believe Ron Darling or Comrade Marty Noble, linked to the decline of the West. The theory, naturally, is that by limiting a starter’s pitches you prevent injury and enable superior performances in future appearances. The Mets seem to be a little more interested in limiting a starter’s pitches than most teams, and I get the impression that this is somehow related to a philosophy of pitching that comes from Rick Peterson.
More to the point, Vargas had given up a home run in the 6th inning, and then walked the second batter he faced in the 7th on four pitches-- both of which are generally regarded as signs that a starter is tiring and losing their control. Randolph thought Vargas was exhibiting commonly agreed on portents of a Heilman-esqu meltdown, and for all we know Randolph was right on this.
The decision to leave Heilman in is a little more interesting/almost definitely the wrong thing to do. One factor is that Schoenwisse had been hospitalized for a stomach virus the night before, and was probably regarded as unavailable (he showed up at the park and told reporters after the game that he could have pitched, but whatever). Recently injured relievers Duaner Sanchez and Matt Wise had both appeared in the previous game; Sanchez had been used in the last two games. With a day game on Thursday (meaning that pitchers used in Wednesday’s game would have less time to recover), Randolph’s desire was too get as much as he could out of as few pitchers as possible; he really wanted an inning or two out of Heilman, and was slow to accept that he wasn’t going to get it. And even when it became obvious that Heilman would be unable to perform, they still had to leave him in for another batter or so, while they waited for Joe Smith to warm up.
As for Smith only facing one batter, you seem to be mistaken: all the sources indicate that he also pitched a scoreless 8th, although that was probably not Randolph’s plan. In theory, due largely to the uniqueness of his throwing motion, Smith should be a specialist or situational reliever who is brought in to face specific batters, mainly right-handers. In theory, Hielman is more like a “miniature starter” (he actually began his career as a starter, wasn’t any good at it and got moved to the bullpen, but still dreams about returning to the rotation) who should be able to pitch an inning or two to pretty much anyone. Thus, ideally, Heilman would have finished the 7th and pitched most of the 8th—if another pitcher was needed for the last batter or so of the 8th inning Randolph would have gone to Smith or Feliciano depending on the handedness of the opposing batter. Randolph’s major mistake was not seeing that his ideal scenario was not going to happen soon enough. His only move was to bring in Joe Smith to perform the role that he had planned for Heilman; Randolph did do this eventually, but he probably should have done it sooner.
For what its worth, Randolph is more stuck with Heilman than he is with pretty much any other player. Heilman is one of only a few “homegrown” players on the squad (Wright, Reyes, Smith, and Mike Pelfry are the only others, I believe), and so there are sentimental and financial (he is still on his first contract which is probably fairly advantageous for the club) incentives to retain him. I am pretty sure that he has been on the team too long to be sent to the minors, and most comparable relievers would be more expensive for the team than Heilman.
Willie’s only motivation for throwing a game would be if he wants to get fired. If the Mets don’t do very well this year, and even if they ever go on a serious loosing streak, Randolph will probably be gone. However, he is under contract and “firing” him would probably involve handing him a big wad of cash, so we can’t rule out anything.
Mets caps are available on the web and at the ballpark, and also at a couple locations that sell team merchandise. One of these is located in the big mall in Flushing, the foodcourt of which seems to have a serious dumpling stand.