Attention my minions, as I make a brief digression about blogging

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This is not about baseball. It’s about blogging. Those of you not interested in the meta-stuff, feel free to stay on break a little while longer. We’ll call you back when we get back to work.

This post from Michael Arrington at TechCrunch is from last September, but it was just brought to my attention this morning. It’s about the way in which it’s quite easy for an experienced and savvy blogger to manipulate reader opinion, play to the crowd and all of that, often without the readers even realizing it.  Arrington goes so far as to posit that “any blogger worth her salt could start, say, an extremely successful militant religious cult.”  I think that’s putting it too strongly, but there’s a  core point: a blogger can — either if he tries or if he’s merely careless — create a community of readers who think in lockstep, agree with whatever the blogger says and shouts down dissenting opinions as heresy. And for as nice as it is to have minions, this point should not be forgotten:

Remember this, though. When you’re reading something here that’s getting you really riled up, stop. It may be that you really should be thinking the exact opposite of what you are. And if you find yourself floating through a post agreeing with all the subtle pandering, wake up! And call us on it immediately.

I don’t know that any blog is immune to this phenomenon, this one included. I mean, I never write anything that isn’t truly my opinion — even at my most Swiftian moments I’m striving to make it clear that my tongue is placed firmly in my cheek — but I’m sure I’m not 100% successful at it. I probably frame issues in subtle ways such that a casual reader can be manipulated, even if it’s only for a moment. I’m sure I also do some lazy things on occasion, knowing on some level that, because I’ve got something of a track record, readers will let me skate from time to time.

But that’s not cool. And even if I’m not 100% successful in avoiding it, I certainly want to. I want the jokes and the tone and the vibe of this blog to build on itself over time, but anything I write should, at its core, stand alone on its own merits, or else it’s not successful.

I think you guys do a pretty good job at calling me out on my baloney, but I think I need to crack the mental whip on myself a bit more, and I can certainly stand you all doing it. Please, do it.

Anyway, just an observation I found interesting this morning.  We now return you to your regular baseball programming.

The Mets are a mess

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The Mets lost again on Thursday afternoon, suffering a 7-5 defeat at the hands of the Braves. It’s their sixth consecutive loss and the club is now in last place in the NL East. Not exactly the start the Mets envisioned.

Matt Harvey got the start, but lasted only 4 1/3 innings. He gave up six runs on five hits and five walks with only one strikeout. After the game, Harvey said he was tight and that he threw yesterday expecting to start on Friday instead, per Matt Ehalt of The Record. Sounds like no one communicated to Harvey that he’d be starting this afternoon until it was too late for him to properly prepare.

Harvey started because Noah Syndergaard was scratched due to a “tired arm.” Syndergaard blew reporters off after the game, according to Mike Puma of the New York Post. Puma then added that Syndergaard ripped Mets P.R. guy Jay Horwitz for letting reporters approach him.

By the way, the Mets also lost outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to a hamstring injury. Not much else can go wrong in Queens.

Joey Votto isn’t on board with the latest fly ball trend among hitters

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If you haven’t heard, fly balls — not ground balls or line drives — are all the rage among hitters these days. Tigers outfielder J.D. Martinez summed it up perfectly last month when he said, “I’m not trying to hit a [freaking] line drive or a freaking ground ball.” The goal is to maximize damage. Last year, for example, fly balls became hits about 17 percent less often than ground balls (7.4% versus 24.6%), but hitters had a slugging percentage more than twice as much as on ground balls (.539 versus .267). This refocusing has helped hitters like Martinez as well as Ryan Zimmerman reinvigorate their careers.

Reds first baseman Joey Votto, who is as much a student of new age analytics as anyone in the game, doesn’t feel that this approach is necessarily a good one, as Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Votto said:

Where I get concerned is the guys that make this attempt and burn out too much of their time and don’t get a chance to be their best selves, and either don’t make it to the big leagues or don’t perform their best in the big leagues because they’re always attempting this new style of hitting. I see it with a lot of guys. Everyone tells the good stories, but there’s a lot of s—ty stories of guys who are wasting their time trying things.

Votto added that while the fly ball approach is working right now, pitchers will soon adapt and the fly ball approach won’t be so good anymore. And he’s right. Baseball has always been a game of adjustments. For example, as teams have gotten comfortable with shifting their infield, hitters like the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber have both dropped bunts down the third base line for easy hits. Knowing that hitters are aiming to hit fly balls now, pitchers may stay higher in the strike zone more often as one possible solution.

Votto is just trying to stay as well-rounded as possible. He says that he wants to become “unpitchable.” Votto wants to be like Angels outfielder Mike Trout, whom he describes as a guy “who can do absolutely anything he wants” and “at all times [has] all options.”

So far, Votto is having another productive season despite a relatively pedestrian batting average and on-base percentage. He’s hitting .238/.330/.563 with seven home runs and 16 RBI in 94 plate appearances. Coincidentally, he’s been hitting way more fly balls than usual as he’s currently carrying a 42.3 percent rate compared to his 33.1 career average, according to FanGraphs. His line drives are way down to 16.9 percent compared to his 25.4 percent career average.