Who Will Save The Mets?

It’s been rough hasn’t it? Luckily, the season is still pretty young. Let’s try to find Mets players to latch to as reasons the Mets will be better going forward.


Let’s start with Amed Rosario. Our top prospect guy who didn’t suddenly appear and set the league on fire as happened, so far, for teams like the Yankees and Braves. So far. It’s early, remember. A month of mashing does not mean a decade of success is eminent for anyone.


Amed Rosario still isn’t walking enough, but he has walked twice in the last few days. Once as a pinch-hitter, which is hopeful for a guy that seems to get over-aggressive even when he has four or five AB in a game. He’s also hitting the ball hard. The more of the beginning season you cut off, the better his numbers look. It’s been a slow climb, but he’s starting to contribute with more than just defense. His talent will continue to manifest as he learns and adjusts, and hopefully he gets a little more patient as well.


Michael Conforto is an easy one. He came back earlier than expected and had a good initial few games and then slumped a bit. While he slumped he was still getting on base via walks, which I always find to be a trait in the really good hitters. Carlos Beltran was this way a lot. He’s starting to drive the ball now and get comfortable, which will be make him a real threat going forward.


Brandon Nimmo has been great all year, at times being near the top in baseball in wRC+. He’s almost definitely not _that_ good, but enough time has passed that it seems obvious that he’s a very good baseball player and should be playing more. It feels like the media, and maybe the Mets too, have finally started to take note.


Devin Mesoraco is better than Matt Harvey, who’s still not missing bats and walking too many, so that’s an upgrade. He was always a guy with talent that maybe hadn’t realized it, and so far he’s thriving here with the Mets. He won’t continue at this pace, but Kevin Plawecki is back now too, and Plawecki has been pretty good this season and last, and has a good eye at the plate. At the very least this means they don’t have a hole at catcher in the lineup, and it helps keep the offense moving.


I’m always hesitant to bank on guys coming back from injuries soon to necessarily do so, but the Mets have a few guys starting rehab games which should mean they’re almost back. Getting Todd Frazier and Yoenis Cespedes back will help the offense a lot, and Anthony Swarzak will hopefully be a nice add to the bullpen.


The Mets have two of the best starting pitchers in the game, but they’ve managed to queue up some of the worse bullpen performances of the year behind them. Logic states that this is just a lot of bad luck, and as the season progresses it’ll even out, and Mickey Callaway will start to have more trust, and more arms, to use in better spots. An improving offense building bigger leads will help too. Callaway’s bullpen management should adjust as the innings mount and relievers show him who can and cannot be trusted. This should pay off down the road.


Wheeler’s actually been better than it seems, and has been one of the victims of some bad defense. He’s given up a few too many home runs, and walked a few too many guys. Some of that’s fly ball luck, some of it might just be something that we have to live with, but he strikes guys out and is due for some more of those bounces to find gloves instead of glance off them.


The Mets rotation problems have mainly been pitchers absolutely bombing, and it’s hard to see that continue for long. Technically, Jason Vargas is a lot better than he’s shown, even if he’s not particularly good. He’s pretty much what you’d call a veteran journeyman though, and if he can tweak whatever the problem is and give the Mets a stretch of decent starts, that’d go a long way. Stephen Matz has been wild, but even last year this wasn’t the case. If he settles down and starts executing better, he should at least be serviceable.


The Mets still have a lot of potential, even if it feels like they’re squandering some of their best chances right now with heartbreaking walk-off losses. Things will pick up soon, let’s just hope they pick up soon enough, and long enough, to catch and pass the Nationals again.

It’s Okay To Believe In The Mets

photo by CeetarReally.  The best thing the 8-2 homestand did for us was save us from obscurity and create a chance, however slight, that the Mets could compete in the second half. While the Wild Card always remains an option, it’s the division you have to focus on, at least until September.


I’m not suggesting we start a magic number count or anything, but it’s okay to imagine the Mets running off a couple more 8-2 stretches over the next couple of months and thinking about how it could get them back into things. Especially if those winning stretches coincide with the 12 games left against the Nationals and the six games left with the Braves.


Right now the Mets are still chasing a number.  They have to get above .500, and then they have to set a pace that gets them as many wins as will likely win the division. That number is currently very variable, and if perhaps the Nationals or Braves are flawed, struggle, or face injuries in the second half it’s an attainable one for the Mets.


The Nationals currently are on an 89 win pace on top of the division. The Mets would have to go 44-23 to reach that. That’s a .657 winning percentage, which would be 106 games over a 162 game schedule.  That’s pretty high, although not impossible. Last year the Dodgers were 47-47 and went 45-23 (.662) to win 92 games. In 2012 Oakland finished 48-24 to win 93.  Baltimore went 47-25 (.653) to win 93. Every year there is a team or two that plays ridiculously well over the last 60 or 70 games, and sometimes they’re teams that were wallowing around .500 at the All-Star break that no one though were that good. So why not the 2014 Mets?


The math changes if the top NL East team doesn’t win 89, and the Mets have the ability to change that themselves. Let’s say the Mets beat the Nationals in nine of their 13 meetings. Now even if they continue the rate of winning they’ve displayed so far this year in the rest of the non-Mets games, they’ll only win 86. Now the Mets would only need to go 32-22 (.593) in the other games to get to 86 wins. They have less games left against the Braves, but I believe the Nationals are the better team and that Atlanta is more likely to slip to a mid-80s, or lower, win total already.


I personally believe the Nationals and Braves aren’t great, and that it’s possible a mid-80s win total could win the division. There is also always the wild card of injuries, or more injuries than to the Mets, to the teams on top lowering their record.


Obviously good things need to happen for the Mets to play even the 36-31 ball that would get them to .500 and their first non-losing season in what feels like ages. Luckily there are plenty of good things you could see happening. David Wright could play more like he’s played of late and less like the powerless guy he was early on. Travis d’Arnaud really could have turned that corner and continue to hit like a major leaguer. Ruben Tejada needs to continue to get on base. Juan Lagares needs to hit more like he did early on this year, and/or the Mets could find another bat to play left field. The pitching is key, because the Mets seem to have plenty of talented pitchers already and plenty of depth available to them. They’ve got talented young arms they’re using in the bullpen and as a result the bullpen has been very good. If they can continue to pitch as well as they have, it’ll lessen the burden on the weaker offense and allow them to win more games with fewer runs.


Unlike previous years, this Mets team is poised to take a step forward in the second half of the season. It’s still unlikely that the improvement is big enough to step over the Braves and Nationals into October, but it’s not out of the question either.

Is The Mets Road Trip Salvagable?

The Mets have not been playing good baseball lately.  This poor play brings up debate and questions about what exactly the problems are.  Is it an easy fix? Something that takes time, money, or trade? 
Could it be the managing?
Maybe.  Jerry Manuel is not a good manager.  He’s operating as a lame-duck manager and as Steve Popper remarked today, A manager that everyone in the clubhouse suspects is not here for the long haul may lose a little authority in the dealing with long term situations such as standing up to Jose Reyes and being the final authority on if he is in the lineup.  The flip side of this is the question of whether Manuel’s lack of authority in such situations is what led to his job security being as tenous as it is in the first place.
Manuel seems inept at managing road games or close games, often burning outs with useless bunts, refusing to use his best pitchers on the road or burning through the bullpen at record pace.  Still, the Mets have the talent and ability to win games, and if enough games are going to come down to the point where they are won or lost on a misguided bunt call in the third inning, the Mets probably won’t win enough games for it to matter.
Is it the offense?
Some fans are thinking so.  Some seem to have given up on Beltran and Bay, and point out that the pitching has rarely kept the Mets out of games.  Surely if players like Bay continue to underperform, the Mets will not win.  However it’s probably safer to say Jason Bay will hit more like the 1000 games before he became a Met, than the 90 or so this year.  Beltran has returned, one of the most talented players in the game, and while we’re still not sure what effect the brace and lingering bone bruises are going to have on his overall play it’s safe to say he’s a solid upgrade over Jeff Francoeur.  Castillo will return soon and put up a respectable OBP that provides more run scoring opportunities.  Reyes will be back in the lineup and allow us to send Tejada back to Buffalo for more seasoning.   It’s easy to get worked up over slumps and scoring droughts, but the Mets offense overall is pretty good. 
How about the pitching?
Behind Johan, one of the best second half pitchers ever, the Mets currently have Pelfrey, Niese, Dickey and Takahashi.  Dickey has been wonderful, and Niese is contributing as well.  Mike Pelfrey’s struggling with a little bit of a slump, but he’ll fight out of it and win games for the Mets in the second half.  Takahashi has struggled, looking more suited for a long relief type role out of the bullpen.  This would be the obvious place to upgrade on the team, and rumors are that Omar is indeed looking for something that won’t cost the farm, but I’m not convinced the pitching is keeping the Mets out of games.  In fact they’ve been in most games, rarely getting blown out or finding themselves down six runs in the seventh inning.  Takahashi has had some bad starts, but he’s also had some good ones.  Johan even had a couple of bad starts in the first half. 
The Mets injuries, coupled with some slumps, are what’s causing the recent struggles.  Some of the other categories may be making it worse such as Jason Bay slumping or Takahashi having a poor outing, but overall it’s the injury to Luis Castillo forcing us to play lesser or unready players in Cora and Tejada.  It’s Reyes slow recovery from the strained oblique.  It’s Beltrans bone bruises keeping him out the entire first half.  Ike Davis went through a typical rookie slump, but after two home runs last night may be coming out of it.  You can’t get much worse than Rod Barajas lately, and he may be forcing Jerry’s hand in using Thole more, who has done nothing but hit while he’s been on the Mets.


It’s easy to overreact to slumps and scoring droughts, but the Mets have the talent to make the playoffs this year.   There is a lot of time left, including plenty of games left against the division leading Braves.  Destiny is in their own hands.  Beltran is getting up to speed, Jose Reyes is supposedly just about recovered, and Luis Castillo is set to return by next weekend.  Johan’s a second half pitcher, more help may be on the way, and Ike Davis may rebound from his first major slump a better player.  The second half of the season is going to be very exciting, and I can’t wait.

Mets vs. Braves: Important, but not THAT Important

Huge three game series for the Mets coming up here, but most of it’s about perception and confidence.  No three games in July ever decide anything, but winning and losing this series is the difference between being within striking distance of the division lead going into the break, and being clearly the second-best team.

If the Mets win this series they will be respected throughout the league as contenders.  They’ll be brought up in all trade talks for big acquisitions.  When analysts adjust their season predictions, the Mets will make it onto a lot of their lists.  David Wright will again be recognized as one of the best players in the game, people will stop taking as many pot shots at the Mets, their minor league system, their medical staff and their decision making.

If they lose and fall four or more games back from the division lead things won’t be as rosy during the break.  Analysts will find a way to justify their decision in the winter that the Mets have too many holes to make the playoffs.  They’ll talk up Bobby Cox, they’ll talk about the Phillies having a good second half.  Jose Reyes will be described as injury prone.  Carlos Beltran will be portrayed as an 80 year old grandma that can’t walk, much less play CF.  They’ll question Jerry Manuel and Omar Minaya and their ability to do their job.

All off the results of one series.  If a sweep happens either way, the reactions will be even more extreme.

The series is really not that big a deal.  It’s an important series to try to win and not let the Braves get too far ahead, but even if they’re four games out going into the break, that’s hardly insurmountable given how many games they still play against each other.    Still, it’s a chance for the Mets to put the first half to rest on a positive note, take a deep breath, and soar into the second half with the addition of Carlos Beltran.

If you’re headed out to Citi Field for any of these games, the Mets are having a fan appreciation weekend.  They’re doing a lot of seat upgrades, signed giveaways, and handing out gift cards.  On Sunday 25 lucky fans will receive game-worn jerseys.  Enjoy!