NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Saturday, October 24, 2015, 11:36 PM
Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey continue to dominate hitters with excellent combination of blending their high heat with offspeed stuff.
The reality of what the Mets’ young pitchers are doing, leading this team on an unexpected joyride to the World Series with the rare combination of power and precision, begs for some historical perspective.
Except here’s the thing: people who should know, in particular former major league pitchers who now observe and study the game for a living, say there is no true comparison.
“If you’re talking about the combination of pure stuff and successful results,” says Al Leiter, “I have not seen this in my life.”
Leiter, an analyst for YES and the MLB Network, said he was limiting that observation for now to the Mets’ top three starters — Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard — simply because Steven Matz hasn’t pitched enough yet.
In any case, Leiter said he recently did a breakdown segment on those three and was amazed to find that for each of them, despite their overpowering velocity, their fastball has accounted for only 61-62% of pitches thrown per game.
“To have guys who throw that hard, from 95-to-100 mph,” said Leiter, “yet be able to use their off-speed stuff that frequently and command it the way they do, I just marvel at it.
“And that’s why I say there have not been three like them on the same team like this. People said to me, ‘what about Maddux, Smoltz, and Glavine with the Braves?’ And obviously they are all Hall of Famers, but as a group they didn’t have the pure stuff these guys do.
“There have been dominant 1-2 guys, like Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling with the (2001) Diamondbacks, and Pedro Martinez and Schilling with the (2004) Red Sox, but who were the third starters on those teams? Exactly.”
Still, there are other Big Threes, if you will, that come to mind:
Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner have combined to help the Giants win three championship since 2010, though Lincecum and Cain have not sustained their early excellence.
Tim Hudson, Barry Zito and Mark Mulder were the reason Billy Beane became famous for “Moneyball” even though they were never mentioned in the movie. But their stuff wasn’t nearly as overpowering, and they never pitched the A’s to a World Series either.
The ‘90s Yankees? They had great pitching but they did it with varying combinations of starters during their run, and none of them threw 95-plus on a regular basis.
In some ways you can make a case for the ‘69 Mets of Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, and Nolan Ryan, except Ryan blossomed only after being traded, and Gary Gentry doesn’t quite make the cut on that level.
Noah Syndergaard’s performance this season has given the Mets an unprecedented trio of power arms.
In any case, it makes for fascinating debate, but Ron Darling, analyst for SNY and TBS, says you have to widen the scope to do the Mets’ pitching justice. That is, you have to include Matz and even the injured Zack Wheeler to fully appreciate the rarity of it all.
“I’ve never seen a group of arms like this assembled at the same time,” Darling said. “To have five guys that can throw 95-plus and have the ability to adapt and adjust within games, using their secondary stuff the way they do, it’s phenomenal and it’s unique.”
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Darling, of course, was part of a great starting rotation himself with the 1980s Mets, claiming a championship in ‘86 and winning between 90 and 108 games in five straight seasons, but he says that only Dwight Gooden, and later David Cone, had the stuff to compare to the current group.
“I’m not diminishing what we did,” said Darling. “We were as good as there was back then, but this staff is going places that we as a staff couldn’t match.
“The only question is whether they can do it year after year for six years or so. If there is a 6-10 year window with this group, they could be the best of all time.”
BIG TOWN PROSPECTS
Kyle Schwarber or Michael Conforto?
The Mets were thrilled the Cubs took Schwarber with the fourth pick of the 2014 draft, allowing them to take Conforto at No 10. It will be fascinating to see which of them has the better career.
Daniel Murphy aside, no one has made more of an impression in the postseason than the Cubs’ rookie slugger. He hit five home runs in nine postseason games, two against the Mets — though it was their ability to hold him to 0-for-12 otherwise that was key to shutting down Chicago’s offense.
Scouts were astonished by the home run Schwarber hit off deGrom, on a fastball 10 ½ inches off the plate outside, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
On the other hand, his defense in left field was exposed badly. Schwarber was drafted as a catcher but nobody seems sure that he’ll be good enough defensively to play there in the big leagues.
“He’s got quick hands with the bat and tremendous power but slow feet behind the plate,” was the way one scout put it. “His defense is probably going to be an issue wherever he plays.
Meanwhile, Conforto is only 1-for-15 in the postseason, the one hit being that laser of a home run off Zack Greinke, but he has had some tough luck with hard-hit balls. The Mets love that he seems so unaffected by the numbers and plan on using him a lot against the Royals, either in left or possibly at DH in Kansas City.
Privately they’re also convinced he’s a better all-around hitter than Schwarber. We’ll see.
HE’S TERRY GOOD
Don’t think for a second that Terry Collins didn’t take some satisfaction in prevailing over Joe Maddon in the NLCS. They’re long-time friends, going back to when Collins made him his bench coach after being hired as manager with the Angels, but only one of them gets the genius treatment from the baseball community.
Anyway, funny moment before Game 3: after Maddon had entertained the media with talk about his well-documented motivational techniques he has used over the years — playing the “Rocky” theme didn’t help the Cubs — Collins was asked if he had a similar bag of tricks.
The look on his face was priceless.
“No, I haven’t done much of that in my time,” he said. “Joe has been very innovative and when he got the job in Tampa he started to do some fun things for those guys, and it caught on. It’s worked.
“But no, I grew up in the Dodgers’ system watching Tommy Lasorda — he was the entertainment. And Jim (Leyland, whom Collins coached under in Pittsburgh) was pretty much a ‘let’s go play baseball’ kind of guy. So I didn’t see much of that.”
No, that’s not Collins’ style. But he has had a heck of a postseason, making all the right moves with the lineup and the bullpen so far. He’s had a golden touch reminiscent of Joe Torre in 1996, in fact, and like Torre then, Collins’ touching reflections on waiting a lifetime to get to the World Series surely has won him some new fans.
ON THE MARK
A month ago I thought Todd Frazier may have been overselling the Mets, having been swept by them in Cincinnati as they clinch ed the NL East. But it turns out the Reds’ All-Star third baseman was dead-on with his prediction.
“With their pitching staff, they’re the team to beat, man,” the Jersey kid said at his locker that day. “I remember watching the Braves back in the day but I can’t think of a team that had four guns that throw in the mid-to-high 90s with some nasty off-speed stuff like these guys.
“I know there are some good teams out there but you know the old saying that good pitching beats good hitting, and I’ll take their pitching over anybody.”