McCann and pitch calling

New York Mets catcher James McCann has obviously helped the starting pitching staff this season.

Jacob deGrom is pitching like he (or anyone else) has never done before. Taijuan Walker has been the best offseason move in baseball. Marcus Stroman has given the Mets a formable top three.

McCann has also been able to, at times, get the most out of back end starters like David Peterson, Joey Lucchesi and now Tylor Megill.

The Mets starting pitchers lead all of baseball with a team ERA of 2.95

However, the bullpen ERA is 4.13. 17th in the majors.

How much of a roll does McCann play into this?

Starting pitchers need to game plan to face each batter 2 to 3 (or maybe even 4, however unlikely these days) times in a game. The starter and catcher strategize. They attack the batters weaknesses, while factoring the game situation.

One pitch sets up another. Which sets up pitchers in the next at bats.

James McCann seems to do a great job with this. The game plan seems solid, and the starters have been the main bright spot for the Mets in the first half of the season.

The pitchers continue to talk about how they love to throw to him.

McCann is known to be a great receiver and has framed pitches well. All reasons the Mets wanted to sign him this offseason.

Tonight’s game though, made me ask this:

How well is McCann adjusting to the relievers, when they come into the game?

Most often, from the 7th inning on, the opposing batters should be getting their final time at bat.

There’s no reason to set batters most up. Whether it’s for the next pitch or the next at bat.
You want quick at bats. Lots of strikes. Lots of swing and misses. The fewer the pitches, and the less contact, the better. All the numbers and stats and sabermetrics say so.

McCann though, doesn’t really seem to shift his pitch calling when the relievers come in.

I was watching the game tonight, against Pittsburg. May comes into the game, not having pitched in a week or so. And he’s facing the bottom of the Pirates line up. A smart move I though. Let him get back into the post All-Star break swing of things with an easy assignment.

May’s first pitch he over-threw, and his front shoulder flew open. Two things I knew enough to look for, just from reading the graphic that said he hasn’t pitched in a week, and from just watching baseball.

May even signaled to McCann that he knew he opened his front shoulder too early.

When you open your shoulder too early, you pull the pitch. It ends up as an outside pitch to right batters. Like the batter May was facing.

McCann kept calling for the fastball- right pitch against the light hitting 7th place Pirates batter.

In this situation, you don’t need to steal strikes by dotting the low, outside corner.

I would have had McCann set in the middle of the plate, and just have May pump high fastballs up in the strike zone.

If your fastball in the strike zone, can’t get either a swing and miss, or weak contact, from the Pirates 7th place batter, than maybe being an mlb pitcher isn’t for you.

McCann kept calling for the fastball, but was setting up low and outside. That’s a really tough location for a pitcher to hit consistently normal. deGrom does a great job of this and it’s one reason he evaluated his game to Cy Young levels a few years ago.

May kept opening up too soon, and holding on to the ball too long. His first 3 pitches were low and outside of his target.

After the second pitch, I thought MaCann needed to keep things as simple as possible. The Mets had a huge lead, and this Pirates batter wasn’t squaring up a high heater from May.

Just pump the high fastball in the upper part of the zone. May doesn’t need to be precise and fool the batter with a pitch barely on the corner. He has the stuff where no one should be afraid of the batter swinging at the pitch.

But MaCann kept setting up for the low outside fastball. He didn’t call for a high fastball until 2-2, and May over threw that pitch as well.

That lead off batter eventually walked, on another low and outside fastball.

The Mets seemed to make the right call easing May in, after the long break, by putting him against the bottom of the Pirates order, with a big lead.

But the pitch sequencing seemed to ignore both that long layoff, and what the eyes were telling all of us.

With the bullpen struggling, McCann needs to keep things simple- the relievers don’t need to nick off the outside edge with their fastballs.

They all have the stuff to throw the fastball past most hitters in the league. Especially this season, with slugging percentages down league wide. Especially against the bottom of the lineup against one of the worst hitting teams in the league.