“Gibson and Drysdale” alert!

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I mock the old “If The Boss was still alive” cliche New York journalists use all the time, but there’s another, even more prevalent cliche that has come to the fore over the past couple of years. It’s the “if Bob Gibson and Don Drysdale were still pitching” cliche, and it’s trotted out pretty darn regularly.

The idea is that those two no-nonsense pitchers from a bygone era would not stand for the shenanigans of today’s young whippersnappers. Why, if you flipped your bat, took a slow home run trot, didn’t hitch up your trousers properly or played the loud hippity-hop music when coming up to bat they’d throw a ball at your head. In Gibson’s specific case, actually, the construction is almost always “would plant a ball in your ear.”

We see it trotted out ALL THE TIME. Comment sections (I found nearly 200 HBT comments from the past year invoking them in this way), on Twitter and even from the mouths of players and managers. Here’s Joe Maddon talking about David Ortiz the other day, after his little argument through the media with Rays pitcher Chris Archer:

When Rays manager Joe Maddon was asked about Ortiz’s shtick after having a night to sleep on it, Maddon said: “The simple answer is, what if it had happened in the ’60s when [Bob] Gibson was pitching or [Don] Drysdale was pitching? That answers the question.”

You’re silly, Joe. Bob Gibson hit a batter for every 158 he faced. Don Drysdale hit a batter for ever 94 he faced. Chris Archer has done it every 82 times. So your two historical avatars would be even less likely to do something about it than your man Archer, there.

And yes, I know what you’re going to say: “but they would brush Ortiz back more!” Well, cool. Then brush Ortiz back more. Or, I dunno, pitch as well as Drysdale or Gibson and don’t give him the chance to hit bombs off of you. Short of that, quit using Gibson and Drysdale like this. Drysdale is dead and should be left to rest in peace. Gibson is an older, retired gentleman and probably has things he’d rather do than to have the memory of his playing days used to fight your battles.

But more generally, whether you’re invoking Gibson, Drysdale, Steinbrenner or anything else, quit pretending that things were better back in the day than they are now. Because in baseball as in life, that’s almost always never the case. And when you do it, you just sound like an old fart who can’t enjoy new things or adapt to a new era.

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.