66 Years Later, Gregorius Follows in Thomson’s Footsteps

In the bottom of the first inning of the American League Wild Card game on Tuesday, October 3rd, at Yankee Stadium, shortstop Didi Gregorius hit a three-run home run to wipe out the 3-0 advantage the Twins had taken in the top of the first. The Yankees never really looked back, winning 8-4, behind two more homers—one from Brett Gardner (which gave them the lead for good at 5-4) and another from Aaron Judge.

Sixty-Six years earlier, on October 3rd in 1951, about three-quarters of a mile from Yankee Stadium, at about 3:30 in the afternoon, New York Giant third baseman Bobby Thomson hit the “shot heard around the world” at the Polo Grounds. Thomson’s three-run homer off of Ralph Branca in the bottom of the ninth gave the Giants the National League pennant. Sportscaster Russ Hodges filled the airwaves with his corybantic cries of “The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!”

Before I attended the Yankees-Twins playoff game on October 3rd, I took a 15-minute walk to explore the ground where the Polo Grounds used to reside. The iconic sports stadium was nestled in Coogan’s Hallow, a couple of thousand feet under Coogan’s Bluff. I got to Coogan’s Bluff about 5 in the afternoon, which gave me plenty of time to think about ball players named Thomson and Mays and Newcombe and Branca and Hodges and Snider before I walked to Yankee Stadium. Here are a few pictures from my trip down memory lane, as well as one from the corybantic party that filled Yankee Stadium that night.

a1 big apple full view of steps IMG_2641

The only remnant from the Polo Grounds is the John T Brush Stairway, which carried fans from Coogan’s Bluff down to the hollow.

a1 a1 big apple coogans bluff pg IMG_2601

A cildren’s playground now rests atop Coogan’s Bluff.

a1 big apple bush words IMG_2617

The stairway was given to the city on July 9, 1913 by the Giants. The stairway provided an easy way to get to the Polo Grounds from the high terrain of the bluff. The stairway was refurbished in 2013, after having fallen into  major disprepair.

a1 a1 big apple pg complex IMG_2651

The Polo Grounds Towers now reside in the footprint of the Polo Grounds. This is an approximate view from where the first base dugout once stood.

a1 a1 a1 didi and garnder celebrate IMG_2931

Gregorius celebrates his homer with Brett Gardner while Aaron Judge looks on.

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Former First Rounder Brandon Nimmo’s New Stance Paying Dividends with the Mets

The spotlight has been on Brandon Nimmo since he was the 13th overall draft pick of the Mets in the 2011 amateur draft, despite never playing high school ball. He only played American Legion ball, as his home state of Wyoming did not have high school baseball. He was the first-ever draft pick of the Sandy Alderson regime and was drafted ahead of such players as Jose Fernandez, Sonny Gray, Michael Fulmer, Joe Panik, and Trevor Story. Players who were selected ahead of Nimmo in that talent-laden draft included Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, Francisco Lindor, Javier Baez, and George Springer.

As of this writing, in 192 plate appearances with the Mets,  he is producing a stat line of .274/.393/.433 (average/on base percentage/slugging percentage), which is a steady improvement from the numbers he produced in his 2015 stint with Binghamton, where in 302 plate appearances his line read .279/.358/.368.

Nimmo now looks like a completely different player at the plate from his stay in Binghamton. In 2015 he rarely pulled any pitches, constantly hitting to left field. This was interpreted as his having a “slow bat,” one that could not get around on a good fastball. This year, however, he is pulling pitches far more than in past years, showing an ability to hit to all fields, with increased power. The difference in Nimmo can be traced to his changed batting stance, where he is now using his legs more and holding his hands lower.

Let’s take a look at Nimmo’s changed stance. First we’ll look at how he hit when he was with Binghamton in 2015.

nimmo batting style 2015 1

In the above photo Nimmo stands ready at the plate at NYSEG Stadium in 2015. His weight is on his back leg, with a stiff front leg. His hands are chin high as he awaits the pitch.

In the below photograph Nimmo starts his swing by raising his front foot ever so slightly and cocking his bat behind his ear, with the barrel of the pointing toward the mound. To offer at the ball, Nimmo has to bring his hands back, reversing the angle of his bat, which adds time to his overall bat speed.

nimmo 2015 batting style 2

Now let’s look at his stance today.

The below photograph shows Nimmo at bat in a September 4th game against the Philadelphia Phillies this year at Citi Field. Notice how much Nimmo’s stance has changed. He has both knees bent, allowing him to use his legs in a “spring-like” fashion.

a1 nimmo new stance IMG_2346

At the big league level, Nimmo has two hitting coaches with whom to work, Kevin Long and Pat Roessler. Their guidance has led to Nimmo having a more crouched and widespread stance, allowing Nimmo to use his legs more in his swing. His hands are also lower, which has helped him eliminate any semblance of a “bat wrap,” giving him a quicker bat. In the below photograph we see Nimmo as he begins his swing. His hands are low and back, allowing him to have a short path to an outside pitch, while the increased flexibility in his legs allows him to turn quicker on an inside pitch.

a1 nimmo new stance IMG_2349

Is Nimmo’s production with the Mets a sign that he is a developing talent who can be counted on to be an everyday player in the majors? That is a question the Mets must answer this offseason. Two things in Nimmo’s favor are his disciplined batting eye at the plate and his incredible work effort. His supporters feel if he can learn to “hunt” the pitches that he can handle (e.g., fastballs low and inside, etc.), he will be able to hit with enough power to justify a corner outfield spot.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Matt Harvey, No Longer “The Dark Knight,” Continues on His Journey

On Monday, 8/21, Matt Harvey pitched three innings for the Binghamton Rumble Ponies, giving up two runs on four hits to the New Hampshire Fischer Cats, including a home run to outfielder Anthony Alford. During his 53-pitch outing, Harvey was far from dominant and though he walked one and struck out three, he struggled with his command within the strike zone. Alford’s homer came on a 3-0 fastball (88 mph) that was up in the zone in the third inning.

a1 nerdy harvey IMG_0926

Harvey arrived at NYSEG Stadium at 4 P.M., entering through an opening in the center field fence.  

Harvey earned his “Dark Knight” moniker because his dominance on the mound for the Mets in 2012 and 2013 indicated he could lead his team out of the darkness of losing seasons. He pitched with an attitude, expecting to dominate hitters while displaying a 98 mph fastball and a sharp curve and slider, along with a changeup that darted down in the strike zone.  Monday night Harvey’s pitching was simply ordinary. After the game, as Harvey made his way down the right field line signing autographs, he was asked by a fan how he felt.

a1 harvey on mound IMG_1117

Harvey hit 94 mph once during his 53-pitch performance. His fastball essentially ranged from 88-92 mph.

“Better,” he said succinctly, implying he is on a journey that he takes day by day, not really sure of where he will wind up. Harvey’s demeanor echoes his pitching performance, as both no longer have an edge. When all major league players selected nicknames to be worn on the backs of their jerseys for a marketing promotion the weekend of August 27-29, Harvey simply selected “Harv,” signifying that he knows his pitching is currently not worth Dark Knight status.

IMG_1197

Harvey endeared himself to Binghamton fans as he signed autographs after the game.

As Mets fans eye Harvey’s return to the majors, his actions call for lower expectations. Steady progress is his goal and where he eventually winds up no one knows because he is not a comic book hero. He is a pitcher recovering from surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome.

Note: The following table breaks down Harvey’s pitches. Light brown indicates the first pitch of an inning (e.g., 1 is the first pitch in the first inning; 14 is the first pitch in the second; 38 is the first pitch for his third and final inning).

a1 harvey pitch count Scan0609

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Yes, Harvey’s Next Start Will Indeed be in Binghamton!

Matt Harvey will take the mound for the Binghamton Rumble Ponies at 6:35 tonight (8/21), pitching against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. This will be Harvey’s third rehabilitation appearance as he recovers from a shoulder stress injury diagnosed in June.  It’s been six years since Harvey pitched in Binghamton as a 22-year-old prospect, one year after being the #7 pick in the 2010 amateur draft.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Harvey in action as a Binghamton Met in 2011.

In 2011 Harvey had a solid partial season in Binghamton, going 5-3 and posting a 4.53 E.R.A. after receiving a promotion from St. Lucie. Though he struck out 64 hitters in 59.2 innings, his Double-A performance really gave little indication of the major league dominance he would exhibit in 2013 and 2015 for the Mets. Harvey started the 2013 major league All-Star game and in 2015 was a mainstay of the Met rotation as the Mets won the National League Championship. As Mets fans know, Harvey’s career has been hampered with a series of injuries, including his 2013 Tommy John surgery and 2016 surgery for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.

harvey first game back

harvey throws his fastball against the Detroit Tigers in spring Training in 2015.

The Fischer Cats come into Binghamton with a 50-75 record, 32 games behind Trenton. The Ponies, virtually guaranteed a playoff spot with a 12.5 game lead for second place, are six and one-half games behind first place Trenton.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Will Harvey’s Next Start be in Binghamton?

After pitching three scoreless innings for Brooklyn on Wednesday, 8/16, Matt Harvey stated “I’m ready to pitch again in three or four days wherever the Mets send me.” In three or four days the Binghamton Rumble Ponies will be in the middle of a six-game homestand, and with Binghamton being about 180 miles from Citi Field, Binghamton becomes a logical landing place for Harvey, who has stayed in New York as he recovers from his stress injury in his shoulder.

Harvey will probably be stretched out to throw five innings in his next mound appearance. This Sunday the Rumble Ponies will play Portland in a 1:05 start and on Monday the Ponies take on New Hampshire in a 6:35 start.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Harvey last pitched at Binghamton in 2011. Playing third base in the background is Josh Satin, who also went on to play for the N.Y. Mets. 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Pony Profile: Casey Delgado

27-year-old Casey Delgado came to the Mets in unorthodox fashion as, after pitching and graduating from  Austin Peay State University in Tennessee, he pitched for two years in the Frontier League, an independent baseball league. After posting a 1.15 E.R.A. for the, and I kid you not, the Traverse City Beach Bums, at the start of the Frontier League season in 2015, Casey signed with the Mets and went on to win 8 games for Savannah (low Class-A). In 2016 Casey split his time between St. Lucie and Binghamton, winning 12 games for the season. This year Casey has been a mainstay in the rotation for the Rumble Ponies, pitching 93 innings and going 9-5, with a 4.82 E.R.A.

casey delgado IMG_1576

Delgado delivers a four-seam fastball for the Rumble Ponies.

Delgado’s pitching repertoire includes a fastball, sinker, curve and changeup. He throws both a two-seam and four-seam fastball, with his fastball sitting in the 89-90 mph range. His bread-and-butter pitch is his sinker. When asked what the biggest adjustment to Double-A baseball has been, Delgado explained “The hitters don’t miss your mistakes up here. I’ve had to improve my command because the hitters here do not miss your misses.”   As for living in Binghamton, Delgado has enjoyed his time in the area and likes the small-town ambience. “I really like it here. It’s a great place to live. You know, I grew up in Miami, so for example when they talk about crime here, I smile to myself because this area has no crime at all compared to where I grew up.”

a1 delgado jannis IMG_4425

Delgado, left, and Rumble Pony teammate Mickey Jannis get in some running during spring training in 2017.

Delgado is looking forward to finish the year strong and is looking forward to pitching in the playoffs. Currently Binghamton has a 7.5 game lead for the second playoff spot in its division.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Pony Profile: Corey Oswalt

Oswalt was drafted in the seventh round of the 2012 amateur draft out of Madison High School in San Diego, where he starred as a shortstop. During his senior year he pitched about 20 innings so that he could show his potential as a pitcher and increase his prospect status.  Though he had only that limited experience as a pitcher, the Mets saw promise in his arm strength. The Mets value arm strength a great deal when scouting high school and college players and Oswalt is another example of the Mets having success in turning a position player into a pitcher. Jacob deGrom is a shining example of the upside of this practice, as he was a shortstop during most of his career at Stetson University.

corey oswalt IMG_7839

Oswalt delivers his four-seam fastball against the Erie Seawolves on August 8th. Luis Guillorme is in the background, playing second base.  

 

Oswalt has been outstanding this season with the Rumble Ponies. As of this writing, he has a 9-4 record, with an E.R.A. of 2.28. He throws his fastball about 50% of the time, with speeds ranging in the 90-93 mph range. His second best pitch is his slider that he throws in the mid-to-high 80s; his off speed pitches include a changeup and curveball. He works quickly on the mound and has excellent control, getting good break on his changeup low in the strike zone. In 110 innings he has struck out 91 batters and allowed 100 hits, compiling an impressive WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) of 1.20. He has struck out 91 hitters through 110 innings and he focuses on pitching to contact. His curveball is a work in progress; in a recent start fewer than 10% of his pitches were curves.

Oswalt will not turn 23 until September 3rd and his age and large frame (he stands at 6’- 5” and weighs 250 lbs.) have the Mets thinking of him as a durable back of the rotation starter. Barring injury, a long career in the majors awaits him as he fine tunes his changeup and develops his curveball in the next year.  He has teamed with P.J. Conlon to be a pitching mainstay with the Rumble Ponies this year, positioning the team for a playoff appearance in September.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment