The Mets have been bouncing around between just good enough and mediocre for most of the season now. They’ve been unable to take that next step to great, but they’ve also never fallen off the cliff towards bad and it’d be foolish to read into their current state, again, as the beginning of the end unless you’re more concerned with your preseason predictions being correct than with how the Mets are actually doing.
There are plenty of times that if the season were to end the Mets would’ve been in the playoffs. Some as recent as four games ago. Losing three to a division rival is a rough way to start the second half, but it’s hardly the end of the world. The Mets are actually only 4 and 5 against the Braves this year. Those first three games are as important to the standings as these last three. The Mets will clearly need to made some adjustments, play better, and have some better luck to win more games. These are all things the Mets have proved able to do. R.A. Dickey and Johan Santana are human, apparently. Everyone slumps.
Everyone streaks too. Santana and Dickey will have other stretches of dominance. Other players will get hits, pitch well, catch the ball and beat the opposition. The Mets will win again.
If I were to judge this Mets team at this point, I’d say it might be a 50% chance they make the playoffs. If the season happens to end while they’re on a hot streak, they’ll likely be in. If not, they’ll likely miss out. The margin of error may be that small, which was also the case in the series in Atlanta. The Mets number one goal for the second half is to create situations where they have a margin for error. Multiple run leads when the bullpen is struggling. Less walks so that one error or poorly defended ball doesn’t lead to runs. Most importantly, getting into playoff position and building a lead so every loss isn’t a possible elimination event.
All-Star Break coming up after the Cubs series and I think it’s worth a thought about how Terry Collins will line up his rotation coming out of it. There are a couple of things to consider here, including getting Dickey as many games as possible, the impending division match-ups, and the two pitchers coming off shoulder surgery.
So I’d definitely start R.A. Dickey the first game back against the Braves. This also ensures he’ll pitch against division-leading Washington in the second series. I’d then pitch Jonathon Niese and Dillon Gee. Give Johan Santana the extra days off, which amounts to skipping a start, and have him start the series against the Nationals on Tuesday, 11 days after his start tonight.
No one’s asked this question that I’ve seen, and maybe it’s because no one dreamed Santana would throw this many innings, but I’m starting to wonder if the Mets would prefer he didn’t throw 200 of them this year. He’s on pace for about 196, and this is probably the last opportunity the Mets will have to give him a little break before a pennant race. Starting with the Nationals series, the Mets will play 20 games without a day off across five cities and three time zones.
Skipping Chris Young the first time through after the break gives him some rest as well, and allows the Mets to have Santana, Dickey and Niese lined up to pitch five of the six July games against the Nationals.
The Mets have a big second half of July before the trading deadline. They play nine big games against the two teams closest to them in the division. If the Mets are going to make some roster moves, whether it’s by trade acquisition or minor league promotion, you’d like to seem the do so coming out of the break. In fact, you do already hear rumors of the Mets being linked to possible relievers on the trade market.
There is still a lot of baseball to be played, but it’s important to put your best team forward when you’re playing the teams you’re probably going to be fighting for a playoff spot down to the wire. A strong second half showing in July could get the Mets into first place and allow them to put the pressure on the other teams in the division.
The Nationals have talked about limiting Steven Strasburg’s innings this season. That’s easier to do if they maintain a 3.5 game lead, but if the Mets can push them to the bubble, it forces them to make some hard decisions. The Braves collapsed last year, and as this season comes to a close that could weigh on their minds. Why give them a cushion to be comfortable with? Keep the doubt that they’re good enough fresh in their minds as the second half rolls along.
The flip side of this is R.A. Dickey. The Mets have talked about the possibility of using Dickey on short rest and/or in relief if they need to. Knuckleballer or not, he’s still 37 years old. It’d be nice to not have to use this bullet, at least not too often, in September. Getting into first and maintaining a playoff spot would allow them to not have to squeeze every last drop of production out of Dickey and keep him fresher for a possible playoff series.
The Mets have six more games before the All-Star Break. It’d be great to see them hit it on a high note, and not coast against two bad teams in the Cubs and Phillies. (Yes, the Phillies count as a bad team. ) They’ve seemingly had a habit of playing down to their competition a bit this year.
They are currently six games above .500 at 43-37. They will not go into the All-Star Break with a losing record, but you’d like to see them finish the unofficial first half strong. Winning four of six would put them eight games over at 47-39. That should be the goal. The Mets have two starts by Jon Niese and one by everyone else, and Niese has been cruising for a while now. His 3.55 ERA is good for 24th of 62 qualifying NL pitchers, and a good .41 better than league average.
Ultimately the goal is to keep pace with the division leading Washington Nationals. They play on the road at San Francisco and Colorado. It’d be awesome if the Mets could gain a game on them to be within three of first place at the break. They’ll play the Nationals six times in the second half of July, as well as the Braves three times. As baseball pauses, it’d be nice to take stock of the Mets and see them within a broom’s length of first place.
It seemed to me that the Mets were having trouble with games just after a travel day, and Terry Collins mentioned something along these lines about last night’s game, so I looked up their schedule and crunched the numbers.
The Mets are now 5-12 in first games in a new city. This includes trips back home but doesn’t include traveling north for Opening Day. They bounce back in the next game to a 9-7 record that more closely approximates their overall record. They’re 4-8 in first games on the road (including the Yankees away game) which means 1-4 in first games after returning home, and 2-5 in first games of road trips.
Is this statistically meaningful or is it just an oddity? Is there something the Mets could do with their first game prep that could mitigate some of the travel fatigue? Maybe something like spending more time perusing scouting reports and defensive positioning and toning down the physical stuff to conserve strength? I don’t think the value of a good night’s sleep can be overstated. Being rested and alert for a game in which the slightest delay in reaction time can be the difference between failure and success is not something you can fake. (Especially without amphetamines)
I’d be curious as to what the record is for teams on the Monday following their appearances on Sunday Night Baseball overall.
Shannon at Mets Police writes up his feelings about why he loves getting to go out to Mets games and enjoying baseball.
It’s a nice enough warm summer night. Santana on the mound, friends, two beers (not eight), some food, 100 or so tweets, take some pics, maybe a blog post, a “free” t-shirt, #imwith28, a folk hero in Dickey, hanging with the tribe – all good things. All make me happy
Baseball is supposed to be fun. Yes, the nature of sports mean some times are not as fun, but if you can enjoy the experience even bad losses have that silver lining. You still hung out with some friends, got some fresh air, and still got to see all the wonderful things about baseball from home runs to devastating curve balls and sparkling defensive plays. Sometimes it’s the opposing team doing it. Sometimes there is comedy in the errors.
Even if it ends badly that doesn’t erase the three hours you were having fun.
And that’s my main take away from baseball. I’m going to note that the Mets are in the playoff picture even though it’s only June. I’m going to note winning streaks and the division champion losing. Because even if the Mets fall out of it on September first, I’ve had five months of happiness and enjoyment believing and rooting and hoping that the Mets will win tonight’s game.
Wouldn’t you rather look up in September and realize it’s been a fun ride and start really getting invested in whether they can take it home than keep looking for the trapdoors around every bend in the schedule? Isn’t it more fun to be excited about a team even if it ultimately fails than to remain un-invested until the last moment? Ike Davis may carry us over those trapdoors. R.A. Dickey may steer us around them.
I respect that everyone has different criteria to really believe in a team, and that many people put up these huge walls between watching and truly believing because they’re afraid of getting hurt and being let down. Some people race to the Internet after losing streaks or poor performances to proclaim that the Mets are what was expected of them in a way that seems like they’re almost chiding themselves for getting invested emotionally.
Getting invested emotionally is half the fun! This is the culture of being a sports fan. This is what makes Jordany Valdespin‘s first career hit being a go-ahead 3-run home run against the hated Phillies so amazin’. Or Dickey’s magical mystery tour. Or Kirk Nieuwenhuis‘ emergence and Rookie of the Year campaign. It’s the hopes and dreams that come along with these events. The understanding that enough helpings of improbable wins, circus catches and league-leading 2-out RBI could make the Mets pretty damn good. Deep down I think everyone knows this. It’s probably part of the reason there is a ground-swell of support for Valdespin getting more playing time despite hitting .222 and playing mostly bad defense over Daniel Murphy hitting .271 while playing mostly bad defense.
The emotional thrill of some of Valdespin’s big hits coupled with his swagger seem to have resonated with Mets fans.
“I was thinking I’m the man,” Valdespin said with a slight smile after his home run of Jonathan Papelbon.
A little bit of confidence in the face of improbable predictions of making the playoffs in 2012 goes a long way towards making the season exciting. It wasn’t just pure cockiness either, as Valdespin continued with a more humble appreciation of where he is.
“I’m just so happy,” he said, adding that his first phone call once he left Citizen’s Bank Park would be to San Pedro de Macoris, in the Dominican Republic, to his mother Maria.
“I want her to know this home run is for her. Because she’s the person who put me here to do this.”
Maybe Jordany’s mix of humble appreciation for being in the Major Leagues coupled with the cocky appreciation for the team’s big hits will be a nice story going forward. Maybe Daniel Murphy shakes off his slump with a three home run week. It’s not one against the other, as they’re on the same team. I’m rooting for both of them.
I give the mainstream media a lot of grief for creating silly Mets-hating narratives, but creating narratives can be fun. Don’t we love Dickey’s story? Still, him climbing a mountain in the offseason does not actually make him a better pitcher or mean he’s destined to win 30 games this season. That doesn’t change that it’s a fun story or that he’s a entertaining guy to root for. The Mets being a ‘gritty’ team may not actually mean anything more than statistical randomness, but it’s still fun to get into it when the Mets are scratching out 9th inning wins against good pitchers, working counts to chase starters early, or executing bunt base-hits when the defensive situation calls for it.
No one knows where this Mets team is going. Not me, not you, not sports radio hosts or national baseball writers. Sandy Alderson does not know, nor does Terry Collins or even David Wright. They believe though. No one can predict the future, and no one has all the data required to give you odds. The season so far is a huge example of that. Everyone tried to tell you what would happen with Johan Santana, and pretty much everyone was wrong.
There are so many unpredictable things in baseball. Things go right and things go wrong and some things are just awesome. So instead of sleeping in the back of the train waiting for something to jolt you awake, enjoy the scenery and imagine the beautiful places the train may be taking you to. You may not end up where you imagine, but I can guarantee you’ll see some amazin’ places along the way. Believe it.
Confirmed: R.A. Dickey does indeed come to bat to the theme song from the HBO series the Game of Thrones.
What Dickey has been doing on the mound is so amazing it changes the narrative around the team and dominates the story line. Even the usually wordy R.A. has run out of things to stay to describe the results he’s getting, instead saying he’s going to leave it to us to describe and just continue going out there and doing his work.
The Mets had just gotten swept, again, coming into this series with the Orioles. This was the farthest thing from your mind watching the game. There was no downward spiral, no wheels coming off the train, just R.A. Dickey dazzlingly darting knuckleballs around Oriole bats. Wilson Betemit got a hit in the 5th and ceased our worry about the no-hitter, and Ike Davis got a grand slam in the 6th that ceased our worry about losing the game. From there on it was pure joy.
The Mets have a legitimate Cy Young candidate as the season nears it’s halfway point. They probably have the All-Star Game’s starting pitcher. They have an MVP candidate and a Rookie of the Year candidate. If they could find someone to compete for Rolaids Relief Man there would be nothing this team couldn’t do.
If you read this blog even occasionally you know I’m a big fan of food and drink and in particular like noting the food and drink at Citi Field. I even have started referring to myself as the Citi Field Beer Expert. So of course I was excited when I found out they were changing the name of the Cleopatra Jones pizza slice at Two Boots to the Cleon(patra) Jones. Personally I think Two Boots at Citi Field should rename all the slices to Mets-themed slices.
Cleon did answer questions and chat with us, which was real cool of him. I left most of the questions to some of the other guys, like Greg, but it was still a cool experience to be near a Mets legend. (One of many on the day) Check out some pictures of Cleon, and pizza. And the pizza was good. If you haven’t had a slice of it before, it’s a slice with sweet Italian sausage, roasted peppers, onions, garlic & mozzarella. It’s an awesome mix of ingredients on Two Boots tasty crust. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Cleon Jones was on hand in part for his work with City Harvest.
Had a chance to be on the field for batting practice on Friday, and so were the Mets top two draft picks, Gavin Cecchini and Kevin Plaweck. They stretched and long-tossed on the field, met with players and coaches, took some swings, and met with media for a Q and A (You can see it at Amazin’ Avenue) where they answered questions about things like playing in Brooklyn, their lives changing, and what they need to do to succeed. Gavin said something about why he was wearing #2, but it was stricken from the record by Sandy Alderson.
Couple more pictures of the draftees below.
R.A. Dickey had one really bad start this year. It was against the Atlanta Braves in the rain. Normally I’d say you can’t throw out bad starts, because they still count. That’s true; that bad start will always be on his record, will always count in the standings, and will always have cost the Mets a chance to win that day.
In evaluating Dickey’s performance, and in looking forward to when he next takes the mound, it’s a little bit more unfair to factor that game in. The rain played a huge factor in the outcome and in his ability to command his pitches. If it’s not raining Dickey isn’t going to pitch like he did in Atlanta. The biggest cause of his bad game was the rain affecting the break of the pitch, not Dickey himself.
So that said, what does R.A. Dickey’s pitching line look like without that start?
10-0 record in 85.2 IP
1.47 ERA via 14 earned runs.
17BB and 85 K for a 5 K/BB and an 8.93 K/9.
That seems pretty good.