John Buck and Marlon Byrd both had years to forget in 2012. Given their age – and a cynic might note, the fact that they both wound up on the Mets – things did not figure to improve all that much in 2013. After all, it’s hard to play baseball with a giant fork sticking out of your back. But a funny thing happened as both players turned in very impressive Grapefruit League performances.
Buck put up a .342/.468/.579 line with 2 HR and 8 RBIs while Byrd notched a .357/..393/.571 line with 10 R and 7 RBIs. Keep in mind that Buck had a career-low .644 OPS in 2012 and that Byrd was even worse with a .488 OPS. It was the third straight season Byrd’s OPS took a tumble as he went from an .808 mark in 2009 to a .775 mark the following season to a .719 OPS in 2011 before last year’s debacle.
Buck is 32, which is getting old for a starting catcher, and Byrd is 35, which means when he fills in the oval on those health forms he colors in the one that says “35-50.” If you go to Las Vegas and bet against everyone in their shoes matching what they did the previous seasons, you will be right many, many more times than you will be wrong.
Yet, both players followed up their strong Springs with quick starts to the 2013 season. Buck has been a monster with a 1.538 OPS while Byrd has 3 R and 2 RBIs in the club’s first three games. Baseball-Reference breaks down splits by age groupings and the most productive one for the Mets so far has been the 31-35 crowd (population: Buck & Byrd). These two have combined for a .391/.462/.652 line so far. Compare that to the youngsters (25 and under) with their .498 OPS and the prime guys (26-30) and their .759 OPS.
Of course, youth will be served and no one expects the old guys to keep up their current rates. Still, that doesn’t mean we cannot rejoice with what the greybeards are doing here in the first week. Much like with Jordany Valdespin’s hot streak in 2012 – just because we know that it’s a fluke and will not last is no reason not to get caught up in the moment and ride it for all it’s worth.
So, with that thought in mind, is it too soon to start printing up “Killer B’s” tee-shirts? If only Mike Baxter was hitting now, too….
OUTLIER FOR THE OF? – Coming into 2013, by far the biggest worry is what kind of production the Mets would get from their outfielders. There were giant question marks surrounding each of the spots and more than a few speculated that the Mets might have the worst OF in the majors. So far, the Mets outfielders have a very poor AVG (.194) but their isolated OBP (.099) and isolated SLG (.323) have been outstanding. Put it all together and the team’s outfielders have a .709 OPS which is above the .696 OPS that last year’s outfielders posted.
PASS THE TUMS IT’S TIME TO DISCUSS THE BULLPEN – Even though two of the three pitchers expected to start the opening series for the Mets opened on the DL, the team got outstanding efforts from its starting pitchers. However, the bullpen has allowed 5 R in 7 IP and has a 1.429 WHIP. Needing to cover just seven innings in three games, Terry Collins has somehow gotten work for all eight of his relievers.
The assumption has been when the Mets call up a pitcher from the minors to give them five starters, a reliever will be the one to go down. Yet if the Mets need eight pitchers when the starters are rolling, what happens when they get kicked around some? Especially carrying two lefty relievers, both of whom are likely to finish with more G than IP? Jeurys Familia will likely head to the PCL, yet if I was Baxter I wouldn’t be sleeping soundly until the decision was actually announced.
METS ENJOY OFFENSIVE EXPLOSION – Due to the cold weather, the NL has a .221/.289/.359 slash line. Meanwhile, the Mets have scored 20 runs in three games thanks to a .255/.345/.451 slash line. As a team, they have a .796 OPS, which is good for the second-best mark in the league, trailing only the Rockies. The Mets are doing it with power and patience, as their 5 HR are third in the league and they lead the loop with 13 BB. It took the 2012 Mets, who won their first four games, seven contests until they reached the 20 R and 5 HR marks that the 2013 squad has accomplished in just three games.
WHY DOES THIS GUY OWN THE METS? – If you were looking for the definition of a journeyman pitcher, you would be hard pressed to find a better example than Eric Stults. He’s been in the majors for parts of seven seasons and is with his fourth club. He’s appeared in 62 games in the majors and made 40 starts. In that time frame, he has a 1.8 fWAR. He’s above a replacement player yet he’s not really a guy you want to count on for meaningful innings.
Yet Stults upped his record to 3-1 lifetime against the Mets in five games with his win Wednesday afternoon. Lifetime, Stults has a 4.07 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP yet against the Mets those numbers are 2.08 and 1.12, respectively. He owns a lifetime 5.76 K/9 but yesterday he whiffed seven batters in five innings against the Mets. He pitches around David Wright (4 BB in 11 PA) and handles the rest of the team. The Mets eventually got to Zach Duke and they’ll get Stults one day, too. Until then it’s extremely frustrating to be handcuffed by a journeyman.