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.
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.
The wave of optimism coming from the Mets fanbase this weekend has been refreshing. Welcome to the club. (Guest euphoria welcome) It’s impossible not to be giddy about how this team played this weekend. Finally, a Mets pitcher has pitched a no-hitter. Believe it.
What else can you believe? An MVP? Playoff berth? The World Series?
Why not? Many of us would’ve put the odds of those above a no-hitter, and we’ve beaten those odds. David Wright has to be one of the favorites for the MVP a third of the way through the season. You could make a case for both Johan Santana AND R.A. Dickey as Cy Young candidates. According to ESPN’s Cy Young predictor, R.A. Dickey is the early favorite.
The Playoffs? Well, the Mets are now tied for first place in the division. They’ve been in “If the season ended today” position to make the playoffs most of the season. Winning in the playoffs? I’ll take my chances with R.A. Dickey, Johan Santana, and David Wright, that’s for sure.
Greg from Faith and Fear in Flushing has this to say on those “We’ve never had XXX” lists:
“And what’s left of a never-got-one nature to ache for anyway? Put aside a World Series championship even if you’ve never seen one before, because the Mets have two of those. They have cycles, triple plays, a 6-for-6 night, 10 consecutive strikeouts, a batting title and now a no-hitter. What is left hanging out there on the vine that can be attained on the field? An MVP has to be voted on, so that’s not it. A perfect game would be something, but that’s like waiting for the clouds to rain candy. Not everybody has one of those, so it’s not as if the Mets are being left out. Ditto for a four-homer performance. We’ll love if it happens, but it’s rare enough to advise against holding breath for.”
What can’t the Mets do this season? Nothing. There is nothing the Mets can’t achieve. Believe It.
The Mets are 10-5 against the other NL East teams this year and they have six more coming up this week. It’s against the Marlins and the Phillies, the two teams behind the Mets in the standings. They’re both capable teams, and the Mets face some good pitching, but it’s the perfect time to reassert their intra-division dominance and keep a winning record going.
The Mets have showed a nice resiliency this season with managing to avoid falling below .500 despite a couple of losing streaks. 4-2 would maintain their .667 winning percentage in the division as well as put them back to their 4 games over .500 high watermark. With Tejada (likely as of Sunday evening) going to the disabled list the Mets could use some of that resiliency. Jordanny Valdespin spent just enough time back in Buffalo to make sure he didn’t leave the oven on, and is on his way back to the majors.
The Mets do face some good pitching, but Roy Halladay hasn’t been perfect this year and Cliff Lee is making his first start off the DL. Hopefully there’s some rust there. The Mets miss Josh Johnson in Miami, but Carlos Zambrano, Mark Buehrle and Ricky Nolasco have been pitching pretty well. Maybe this is the week Ike Davis and Lucas Duda start acting like the bash brothers I hoped they could be.
I don’t care. I’m going to enjoy it. I’m going to throw out ridiculous information because it’s fun to look at projections of Lucas Duda hitting 120 home runs.
While three games is just three games, it’s still a lot more meaningful than Spring Training data. Frank Francisco nailed down three saves. The bullpen pitched well. Lucas Duda really does look like he can hit. Ruben Tejada’s looking good. The Mets are in first place. Even Jason Bay has an RBI, and leads the league in sacrifice flies.
Just enjoy it. Things will probably shake out differently the rest of the season. I doubt the Mets go 162-0. Still, I think as people see this team play they’re realizing that they actually do have talented players on it. Enjoy the ride. Is there something from this weekends games that opened your eyes involving this Mets team?
David Wright is on pace to … I don’t even want to say it. I’m afraid I’ll jinx it. There is a certain batter outcome that happens at the plate, and it’s one that’s been very prevalent in Wright’s game the past couple of years. Ryan Howard and Adam Dunn are experts at it. Wright hasn’t done it this year. He didn’t do it in Spring Training either. Keith Hernandez is practically drooling over his batting stance so far this season. We all know what David’s capable of. This is my biggest point of optimism this weekend.
The Phillies and Braves got worse, and the Mets, Nationals and Marlins got better. This season the NL East could finish with the first place team being less than 15 games ahead of the last place team. Last year the Marlins finished 30 games behind the Phillies.
The top of the division shapes up to win a few less games, and the bottom of the division will win a few more. This will bridge the gap between them and bunch everyone up in the middle. Injuries and other things can affect this of course, but the Mets and the Marlins figure to be falling in the middle somewhere. Maybe there’s some doubt that some of the bottom teams can win the division or that the Phillies will finish last, but it’s definitely going to be a tighter race this season.
These teams play each other in half the season’s games. The head to head matchups are going to play a huge role in determining who wins the division this year. The margin of error this year may be that much less that a good record against teams within the division make up the different between winning and falling short. Even just an 11-7 record against the Phillies would make up four games in the standings. If I’m right about the division being bunched up, it’s really going to intensify the rivalries between some of these teams. That can only be a good thing that leads to teams setting up their rotations so we get more pitching duel matchups. All five teams will go into September with a lot of games to play against each, meaning most of the NL East teams may still control their own destiny in terms of making the playoffs.
It’s going to be a fun season.
Yesterday the Wilpons settled their Madoff case, putting a pretty firm handle on what their liabilities are going forward. This is a big step in getting the Mets financially stable. The second step was announced last night as official; The 12 minority shares have sold. They’ve paid back the bridge loans, and have the cash on handle to start getting things straightened out. They’ve got other financial woes on the horizon, but none of those are looming at this moment, so it’s time to focus on the baseball.
Kerel Cooper at Ontheblack.com lists five reasons to be optimistic about the 2012 Mets. Five good solid reasons, beyond the finances, which you should definitely check out. Here’s a couple more to round out the list.
The bullpen: Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch haven’t historically been regularly awesome, but they’ll be a step up from Ryota Igarashi and D.J. Carrasco. Add in Ramon Ramirez, who’s a very solid reliever, and the Mets should have a good bullpen. This helps the Mets keep and hold leads, where maybe they’d have given them away last year. It also limits the pressure on a recovering Johan Santana to go deep in games too often.
The opposition: You’ll here that everyone in the division got better, but it’s not true. The Phillies lost a starting pitcher in Oswalt, lost Madson and Lidge and replaced them with Papelbon, and are starting the season without Ryan Howard and probably without Chase Utley. Their top three pitchers are awesome, but they also all posted career low ERAs. Halladay and Lee are not pitchers you expect to be improving at their age, so it’s almost a lock that they’ll regress to a somewhat less awesome state this year. That’s without mentioning Halladay’s declining velocity or the Spring Training rumors (that mean nothing, it’s Spring Training) that he’s been hitable and his arm angle is all messed up. The Atlanta Braves finished second in the division, and after an epic collapse really didn’t do much to alleviate their problems. They’re also dealing with some pitcher injuries. With the top of the division coming back to the pack, the threshold to make the playoffs is lessened and intra-division games could go a long way towards deciding the victor.
The 2012 Mets are going to surprise some people. They’ve got some real talent on the team, and every day is another day closer to some of the reinforcements in the minors being ready. It’s going to be a fun season, and I can’t wait for it to start.
The Mostly Mets Podcast discussed offense in the National League East in episode 33. The Mets scored the most runs in the division last year, and Toby, Patrick and Ted agreed that they’d probably lead again this year, although the Marlins have gotten real close.
Speaking in terms of runs scored the Mets scored 718, the Phillies 713, NL Average was 668, Braves had 641, Florida 625, and the Nationals 624. The Phillies offense is heavily influenced by the park they play in, and without Ryan Howard indefinitely plus another year of age for Rollins and Utley it doesn’t seem like the Phillies will score as many in 2012. Can the addition (And subtraction) of Jose Reyes account for 92 runs of difference between the two teams? The Marlins offense is heavily lopsided with Reyes, Hanley Ramirez and Mike Stanton making up most of it.
The Mets drop off from Beltran to Duda shouldn’t be too great, and Andres Torres can probably give the Mets what Angel Pagan gave them last year. Replacing Jose Reyes’ production is a little tougher. Luckily most of his at bats will be made up with more at bats from Ike Davis and a little more Ruben Tejada. David Wright will get more at bats as well, and all of them with a healthy back. This will all keep the offense churning, even if Jason Bay exhibits no signs of life.
If I had to pinpoint one player to worry about, it’d be Tejada. He’s still young though, so there’s still plenty of hope he’ll improve. Last year’s OBP was partially BABIP/AVG fueled, but he did improve on his strikeout and walk rate. Keep improving there and even if he gets lucky he’ll still maintain a very helpful rate at getting on base.
One other factor to consider that makes the Mets clear-cut favorites: power. The Mets got on base more than anyone else in the National League except the Cardinals, but they had league average slugging. This translates to a lot of runners stranded that otherwise would’ve been runs. In 2012 the Mets will have more power. Duda is already impressing people with his power this spring, and Davis will join him to tattoo the Pepsi Porch all year long. Add a healthier Wright and even a 20% bounce back from Jason Bay towards his career norms and the Mets will be a very dangerous threat. This is all without even mentioning the walls. The Marlins addition of Jose Reyes will likely raise their on base percentage, but not enough to make up the difference.
I’m confident the Mets will have the best offense in the National League East this season. It’s one step towards a successful season, and it’s also a step that isn’t going anywhere. The Mets offense is controlled through 2013 at least, with prospects prepared to fill in at some of the weaker positions soon. The Mets offense is great and will stay that way.
A snapshot of the offseason before the 1993 season. Lots of tidbits and future Mets on that page. Both expansion teams were picked to finish last, with the tagline “Better than the 1962 Mets.” Ouch. But wait, it gets worse. Both teams would actually finish the season better than the 1993 Mets.