Editor's note: The MLB Whiparound column takes the spirit of FS1's studio show and brings it to your Internet screen. Each week, FOX MLB analyst C.J. Nitkowski will go around the league to give you his thoughts on some of baseball's biggest topics
A Syn-ful Mistake
We wondered if the Mets were going to seek retribution on Chase Utley for the late takeout slide that ended Ruben Tejada's year last postseason. Through the first four meetings between the Mets and Dodgers this year that answer was no. In the fifth game, however, Noah Syndergaard took matters into his own hands.
In the third inning Saturday, Syndergaard sailed a 99-mph fastball behind Utley and was immediately ejected by home plate umpire Adam Hamari. Mets manager Terry Collins blew a gasket and was also ejected, understandably so.
After the game crew chief Tom Hallion issued a statement saying that Hamari believed that the pitch was intentional and in that situation has the right to either warn or eject the player. We never see ejections in these cases, until Saturday night in Queens.
Hallion also indicated in the statement that last year's game had nothing to do with the Syndergaard ejection. That is disingenuous. Ken Rosenthal has a great piece on the need for consistency among officiating in baseball.
The feeling among many who have played and some who now cover the game was nearly universal. I heard back from 92 former players on the matter with 92 percent of them saying that Syndergaard should not have been ejected and that a warning was the right call. The other 8 percent said Hamari made the right decision in immediately ejecting Syndergaard.
Among the MLB Whiparound crew the sentiment echoed what most believe:
"There has to be a warning first ... unless a warning was given before the series (it was not). Just warn them after the pitch." -- Mark Sweeney (@Sweendog9)
"Syndergaard clearly had it on his mind that Utley was going to be a target and without warning you just can't do that, even if you clearly know the history of both clubs." -- Dontrelle Willis (@DTrainMLB)
"There should have been warnings issued but the game between Texas and Toronto nullified that." -- Frank Thomas (@TheBigHurt_35)
Hamari overreacted and quite possibly cost the Mets a win. The Dodgers dropped 9 runs on the Mets' bullpen the rest of the way en route to a 9-1 victory. Salt in the wound for Mets fans as Utley had two home runs and five RBI, including a seventh-inning grand slam.
Harvey's Last Stand
Matt Harvey goes Monday in New York against the Chicago White Sox. Harvey is mired in an awful season, one that has seen him go 3-7 with a 6.08 ERA in 10 starts. Many, myself included, thought that Harvey would have been removed from the starting rotation already. The Mets, however, have decided to give Harvey another shot at getting things turned around.
I talked to Mets assistant general manager John Ricco last week. He told me that the Mets are seeing improvements in Matt Harvey that are giving them reasons for optimism. The raw numbers might tell you otherwise. In his last three starts Harvey has totaled just 13.1 IP, allowed 27 hits, 19 runs (16 earned) and 4 home runs.
So what have Ricco and the Mets actually liked? The metrics. Ricco talked about data the Mets have tabulated regarding Harvey's arm slot, release point and extension that all point to a positive trend. I like the optimism, but I'm not sure I can buy into it.
I have always said this about Matt Harvey: When he was going well, he believed he was the best baseball player in the stadium on any given night. That is no longer. Matt Harvey's confidence is shot. This game can do that to you and do it very quickly. Recapturing confidence can be a major work-in-progress.
If he struggles on Monday night, a break is order. For me he needs to clear his head, find a way to get that confidence back and give the Mets the best second half of the season he possibly can.
Worse than the save
If you travel in sabermetric circles -- or even just window shop once in a while -- you're probably familiar with the #KillTheWin movement and other campaigns to do away with what some see as less useful statistics. The save is another stat that sabermetricians, and maybe even some executives and managers, would like to see put on the chopping block.
And while a case can be made for eliminating these counting stats, I submit to you quite possibly the worst stat that is attached to relievers -- the blown save. A blown save can occur in any save situation (sixth inning or later, starting an inning up by 3 or entering the game with the tying run on deck) in which the relief pitcher is standing on the mound when the tying run crosses the plate.
You can get a blown save in the sixth inning with your team leading 2-1 if you enter a game with a runner on third base with less than two outs and allow a sac fly. Of course, that seems silly, but it does happen. On the flip side you cannot get tagged with a blown save if you give up the lead in a non-save situation.
Case in point: Jeurys Familia on Friday night at Citi Field. Familia entered the ninth inning with the Mets leading 5-1, a non-save situation. Familia gave up the lead by allowing 4 runs in and the Dodgers to tie the score, 5-5. Familia did not get a blown save. Curtis Granderson hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth and yep, you guessed it, Familia earns the win.
On Saturday in Kansas City, David Robertson entered the ninth inning with his White Sox leading 7-1, a non-save situation. Robertson allowed 5 runs on his own and exited the game with the potential tying run on second base. Tommy Kahnle replaced Robertson with 2 outs and promptly allows a double to Drew Butera. Kahnle got a blown save (and eventually the loss). Robertson does not get a blown save, despite the fact that his 6 base runners, all of whom scored, cost the White Sox the game.
Blown saves can be a very misleading stat. And why are closers so terrible in non-save situations? Another topic for another day.
Let them pitch!
More than ever we talk about pitch counts and opine about their effect on pitchers and potential injuries. One hundred seems to be the worry number when it comes to pitch counts, not so much because it is scientific, but more so because it is a round number.
On Saturday, Phillies righty Jerad Eickhoff loaded the bases with one out in the sixth inning, already trailing 3-0. His pitch count was at 101. Current conventional wisdom would tell you that after the two singles and a walk that it was time to get him out of the game. Manager Pete Mackanin thought otherwise.
Eickhoff stayed in and retired Miguel Montero on a groundout to the pitcher and Addison Russell on a flyout to right. He finished the inning, and the game, at 109 pitches, one pitch off his career high.
The Phillies are having a surprise season, but the reality is they are still in a rebuild. Part of that rebuild is grooming these players to compete and deliver when it really matters. Pete Mackanin could have removed the 25-year-old Eickhoff and no one would have objected. Instead Mackanin wanted to see his young starter work with his back against the wall as he was fatiguing. It seems small, but that is a growth moment for Eickhoff and one Mackanin will remember down the road.
A New Challenge
In the world of sports media it is an asset to be multi-platform. For me that means being able to do TV, radio and writing. I do all of those things from the former player point of view, which opens up more opportunities for me in this business.
Much like it was for me during my playing days, I am constantly trying to evolve and expand my talents as a broadcaster. I asked my bosses at FS1 this past winter if they would consider letting me host MLB Whiparound at some point in 2016. They said they would consider it.
Well, now it is a "yes." I am hosting MLB Whiparound this Tuesday night at 7 p.m. ET on FS1. What's the big deal, you might ask? The host role is so much different than the analyst role. As a host for a non-scripted show like Whip, you have to lead, direct and keep a show moving. You have to follow cues from producers in your ear while maintaining a conversation with an analyst. Things are constantly changing with random in-game updates. Our main hosts, Kevin Burkhardt and Chris Myers, are incredible at what they do.
I have hosted radio and even have led segments on TV but this is different. I am stepping out of my comfort zone and taking on a major challenge, but that is where growth happens. Dontrelle Willis and Eric Karros will be on that show with me as well. The first all-player edition of MLB Whiparound will happen Tuesday. I hope you'll tune in ... and be kind to me on Twitter.
MLB Whip Around: The Show, airs weeknights on FS1.