The Mets had a .400 winning percentage in April and with four games remaining in May their winning percentage checks in at .390 for the month. It would be an easy conclusion to say that this is who the Mets are as a team yet the way they reached these marks is so different that it makes one wonder if that’s really the case at all.
Do you recall the Mets winning games by scores of 11-2, 16-5 and 7-1? That’s how they put wins on the board the first month of the season, when they averaged 4.76 runs per game. The Mets did not win more games the opening month because the pitching was so poor. The team ERA for April was 4.20 and it seemed like it was two runs higher.
Flip the calendar to May and suddenly the Mets cannot score. The runs per game went down to 3.17, a drop of over 1.5 runs, which is huge. New York opened the month putting up seven runs on back-to-back days but in the following 21 games, the Mets could muster only 59 runs, an average of just 2.81 runs per game. However, while the offense could be found on the back of a milk carton, the pitching has started to come around.
The 4.74 ERA for the month is even worse than in April but the pitching is rounding into form. The bullpen improved first, even though the starters were regularly asking the relievers to pitch four innings per night. The Mets have won nine games this month and Bobby Parnell has factored into all of them, with 6 Saves and 3 Wins. But Parnell is not the only reliever performing well recently. The quartet of Parnell, Greg Burke, Brandon Lyon and LaTroy Hawkins have combined for 39.1 IP and 10 ER in May, good for a 2.29 ERA
Then the schedule started to stabilize, allowing the starters to go on normal rest. Now four of the five starters have settled down and are pitching well, with only Dillon Gee struggling to find his consistency.
After Monday’s win over the Yankees, the Mets have received a Quality Start in nine of their last 15 games, with Jonathon Niese delivering three and the remaining three pitches each contributing two. In those nine games, the starters have pitched 60.1 IP and allowed 16 ER, good for a 2.39 ERA. Even Gee has displayed good signs recently, as he has pitched four scoreless innings in both of his last starts before running into trouble in the fifth.
But all of the good pitching will go to waste if the offense can’t deliver runs.
John Buck, Ike Davis and Ruben Tejada have been dreadful this month, with only a recent 10-game hitting streak elevating Lucas Duda away from this bunch. Buck, Davis and Tejada are a combined 40-229 (.175) this month with 62 Ks. Terry Collins likes to keep a set lineup but Buck and Tejada need days off while Davis needs to be elsewhere, at least temporarily. Instead of building momentum with his gift “two”-hit game, Davis responded with an 0-for-3 with three strikeouts the following night.
It seems inevitable that Davis will get two more weeks to flail away helplessly after Sunday’s game-winning hit against the Braves. How one hit trumps a .368 OPS and a 36.8 K% this month is beyond me. Davis’ ability to watch fastballs in the middle of the plate while swinging at every breaking pitch a foot out of the strike zone is remarkable. If this was October 1919, we would say he was one of the players who was fixing the outcome of the World Series.
Everyone frets about who replaces Davis while missing the obvious – this move is designed to get him out of the lineup, not to add some Ruthian figure to it. But there’s a chance to kill three, perhaps four, birds with one stone here. Send Davis to the minors, move Duda to first base and call up a backup shortstop.
As for who takes Duda’s spot in left field– all they have to do is surpass Davis’ .368 OPS to be a net gain. That’s an extremely low bar to clear. Put Jordany Valdespin out there. He may not register a .700 OPS in regular playing time but that’s still a 300-point improvement over what the Mets have received and would go a long way towards improving the offense from “dreadful” to “bad.”
Omar Quintanilla is riding a 7-game hitting streak that has his AVG up to .331, even if the majority of his damage has been done in the hitter’s paradise known as Las Vegas. True, he’s not on the 40-man but at this point in time it seems safe to move Frank Francisco to the 60-day DL to open up a roster spot. Quintanilla will allow Collins to give Tejada some much-needed days off and if he gets hot, he could even work into a platoon situation.
A batting order of Murphy-Duda-Wright-Ankiel-Byrd-Valdespin-Quintanilla-Recker may not strike fear into any MLB team but it replaces what has been three dead spots and who knows – maybe the Mets catch lightning in a bottle with one of the replacements. At this point it seems a better bet for one of Quintanilla, Recker or Valdespin to go on a hot streak than Davis.
No one likes a micro manager but something has to be done with the starting lineup rather than writing the same names in day after day while hoping for different results. It may have been a defensible solution on April 30th but it’s simply not acceptable here on May 27th. If the pitchers are giving the team a chance to win in most games, it would be nice if the offense would return the favor.