Winning While Slumping: A Rant
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Teams slump. The Mets were leading the league in runs per game and suddenly the offense slumped and they started losing. They’re now 6th in runs score in MLB. The Mets are still auditioning center and right fielders with no one standing out, Ruben Tejada and Ike Davis have under performed, and we knew John Buck was not that good.
All teams slump, good ones, great ones, and horrible ones. It’s too early to say which the Mets are, and it’s certainly silly to take the results of the last week as more meaningful than the first couple just because it fits better with what you expected, but good teams should find a way to win at least some games while they’re slumping. The Phillies are probably not a great team, and getting swept by them is not a good sign. There were plenty of opportunities that the Mets let get away, and while it’s possible to do everything right and still lose, it’s also possible to steal games when you’re struggling.
John Buck, Ike Davis, and a couple of others muffed a couple of foul outs that could’ve been converted. Not all of them led directly to runs, but all the extended innings and extra pitches lead to things like tired arms or more bullpen. Pitchers made a couple of poor pitches on top of poor pitches that led to runs. Perhaps Terry Collins could’ve been more aggressive, or less aggressive, in pitching changes or lineup changes that ended up costing the Mets a better shot at winning. Like most losing streaks, there are a billion second guesses of the players, the manager, and the overall strategy.
Sometimes the bounces go the wrong way, the pitcher you choose has a bad day, or the pitch you guess is simply wrong. Those are the breaks, the notorious 50 games that every team loses and there is nothing you can do about. Teams destined for the playoffs will find ways to minimize the damage while they’re slumping. Sometimes a pitcher will pitch a gem and stifle the opponent enough to steal a win with only a run or two, other times a batter here or there will capitalize on the one bad pitch the opponent throws for a 3-run home run to win the game 3-2 even though the offense only managed three hits. This avoids sweeps and turns 1-2 series losses into 2-1 series wins. When the slump end the team will only have gone 4-6 instead of 2-8 and can use a surge in fortune to get ahead of the competition instead of making up for the ground they lost during the slump.
So far the Mets are not doing this. That’s not to say they can’t. Lucas Duda, Ike Davis, and David Wright are all talented enough to have game-changing at bats even amidst personal or team slumps. Matt Harvey and Jon Niese are talented pitchers, both capable of pitching a gem that wins a game despite slumping offense. Jon Niese came close Sunday, and perhaps Terry Collins should’ve left him in to finish the seventh instead of going to the bullpen to face Ryan Howard. I’m always a fan of having the top players on my team on the mound or at the plate during the critical points in the game, and that was certainly one of them.
It’s early yet, and the teams that win in April are not a lock to get to October. If the Mets are going to grow into a competitor, they’re going to have to find a way to minimize long losing streaks and win some of these games when things aren’t going perfectly.Follow @Ceetar