Mets still searching for identity after 48 games

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.

13 comments for “Mets still searching for identity after 48 games

  1. Chris F
    May 28, 2013 at 11:00 am

    I agree that new personnel are needed. This same group of people will not likely begin to make big run totals. Ive always thought the the early season run totals are far too swayed by a few huge games. Scoring 17 runs means pretty much nothing, as all that does is sway the stats. I think that how many wins/losses by 1 or 2 runs is a much better barometer of things. Even a shake up on the order of what you are talking about seems like moving the chess pawns around. We need new and proven players to come into the line up, and that means promotions or trades.

  2. Metsense
    May 28, 2013 at 11:42 am

    I responded in David Groveman’s article on this . I agree Brian, it is time to shuffle the deck. Chris F, the trades may have to wait until winter but are desperately needed. Why as fans do we accept such below average players and put them at a higher level in our eyes based on a few good moments during the season? The culture of this team needs to change. If the Mets are the worst defensive team then each individual player should look in the mirror and ask ” if no instinct Murphy can do it, why can’t I?” I think the group gets along well together and they don’t want to be broken up which to me means they don’t see any urgency in improving, or status quo. One year ago this team was in position for the playoffs and now they are the third worst team in baseball. Where is the accountability? I post this now after two nice wins so that I don’t come across as kicking them when they’re down. As always, and as a die hard, LGM and it is Happy Harvey Day so let’s go kick the Yankees butts!

  3. steevy
    May 28, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    I don’t have any confidence in Alderson or TC to do anything at this point.

  4. za
    May 28, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    I’m going to preface by saying that one of the things I like about Mets360 is that the writers take actual stances on things.

    I completely agree with Brian here – drop Ike down. We would all love for him to play well and we all hope he gets better at some point, but there’s no point in seeing him flounder when the issues he has are issues he could work on in the minors. Hopefully he’ll get his timing back and stop taking the in-between swings he’s been taking.

    Moving Duda to first automatically makes our defense better because whatever we lose on D with Ike, we more than make up for by not having Duda out there. Although I’m not completely faulting Duda for last night’s triple to Gardner, let’s agree that with Lagares, Baxter, or Valdespín out there, we would have had a better shot at making that play.

    And calling up Quintanilla would be a strong move. He’s not an everyday player and we avoid shattering Ruben’s confidence by not demoting him, but we get a lefty who can hit a bit and a backup infielder loads better on defense than Turner.

    Not adding much, but definitely agree across the board with the suggested changes.

  5. Jerry Grote
    May 28, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    It is absolutely chilling that this:

    “A batting order of Murphy-Duda-Wright-Ankiel-Byrd-Valdespin-Quintanilla-Recker”

    represents the best that this organization can produce, and MUCH MUCH WORSE THAN THAT … that it likely represents more than what the fans are forced to watch on a nightly basis.

    That is doubly damning.

    Five straight guys that are so bad, that they either never were or have long since stopped being replacement level baseball players, this represents a quantum leap forward to what we put on the field last night.

  6. NormE
    May 28, 2013 at 12:46 pm

    I’m puzzled by the continued presence of Juan Lagares on the 25 man roster. Is he just a body with no great expectations? If the Mets have any hopes for him he should be down playing regularly. Marlon Byrd can be your back-up CFer. That would free a roster spot for Q.
    If Ankiel plays reasonably well I expect that he will be traded sometime this season. At that point the Mets can choose to promote someone from the farm who is deemed worthy. That could be Capt. Kirk or MDD or Lagares if he shows his worth when given a chance to play regularly.

    • May 28, 2013 at 2:27 pm

      My feeling is that Lagares is a fourth outfielder and there isn’t much to be gained by sending him down, unless it’s to re-balance the roster and get a backup SS up.

      • Name
        May 28, 2013 at 3:41 pm

        It makes even less sense now to carry 6 OF’s when we now have Ankiel pretty much the regular CF at this point. Some outfielder needs to be dropped so Q can come up and it’s not going to be Duda, Baxter, Ankiel, Byrd, so that leaves Lagares or JV. JV has shown something at the plate while Lagares has shown no plate or bat discipline at all so he’s the logical choice.

        • za
          May 28, 2013 at 4:27 pm

          That said, Lagares also killed the ball in AAA and hit a massive homer against the Cubs. The guy may never be 1st string starting CF but he has enough talent and upside that he should be playing regularly, probably at AAA. A true CF with pop against lefties can be a useful player.

          • Name
            May 28, 2013 at 6:08 pm

            All very short sample sizes. Apart from a monster 2011 season that put him on the radar and the good start to this season at AAA, he’s been pretty uninspiring. From what I’ve seen from him at the Major league level, there’s no reason to throw him a strike because he will swing at everything and get himself out. One can only hope he learns and gets better. He does have a great glove though.

  7. Tom
    May 29, 2013 at 11:50 am

    The way how I see it, veterans are holding roster spots down that will soon be turned over to young players. It is going to take time for those younger players to develop though so people should be patient. As for the young players who are already up like Tejada, if Quintanilla holds his own starting, they figure it could stump his ability to bounceback. If everyone did not have low expectations of the Mets this season, Tejada wouldn’t be in the line-up right now.

    At some point, d’Arnaud takes over Buck. At some point, Flores slots in at 2B, LF or 1B. It’ll be 2B if the Mets get a sweet offer for Murph or if he gets too pricey in arbitration. Or if the Mets slide Murph over to 1B or LF (hopefully not LF). Although I doubt it, Flores could be put in LF too. Duda would have to be gone for this to happen (because he can’t be in RF, especially with either of them in LF). Obviously Davis is a big question mark in all this.
    Some combination of Turner, Valdespin and Lutz will be back up to Davis, Murph, Duda and Flores. As for Tejada, Cecchini is a ways away and I’m not sure if Tovar is good enough to take over the starting spot. So long as he bats 8th, Tejada is alright.

    Duda is the closest thing we have to a reliable starting OF we can see ourselves wanting to keep in 2014, so I expect him to be in the plan. Baxter does too as a lefty bat off the bench. As for CF and RF, Ankiel and Byrd are obviously our vet stopgaps. If Nieuwenhuis plays well, it’ll be his spot. He’s doing horrible in AAA though. den Dekker has been hurt, but can he hit at major league level? Especially if you expect to bat Tejada 7th or 8th? Neither of these guys seems good enough to start. Sadly, neither will likely be on the bench either because they need a second righty bat to Turner off the bench too. So let’s say they sign or trade for a CF (i.e. Choo). RF right now next year would be one of Lagares, Cowgill, Valdespin and perhaps Puello. Lagares or Cowgill + Valdespin on the bench is okay. This means RF is a big need. One of the CF/RF needs to be a top of the order hitter and the other needs to be a power hitter.

  8. Tom
    May 29, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    If the Mets aren’t able to solve their OF demands with their large ability to spend next year, their pitching depth will be used via trade. This will be a test to Alderson’s ability as GM. Like it or not, no matter who was GM or manager with these payroll constraints, the same tale was going to be told for the 2011-2013 Mets.

    2014 Rotation: Harvey/Niese/Wheeler/Montero/(Gee, Hefner or Mejia)

    Marcum either gets traded at this deadline if he has any value or isn’t re-signed. Montero might come up in May or June like how Harvey did so that might buy one of Gee or Hefner more time. As for Mejia, it all depends on his health, but he still does have some potential (although the trade value doesn’t match which is why he is still here).

    2014 Bullpen: (Hefner, Gee, Mejia or McHugh), (Carson or Rice), Burke, Edgin, Familia, (Lyon or a similar set-up) and Parnell.

    Excluding a Lyon type and possibly Rice, a completely young bullpen is possible in 2014 (if Edgin and Carson progress). A young long reliever slots over Atchison, Burke supersedes Hawkins and Familia over Frank Francisco (if Francisco is ever actually healthy to pitch this season).

    Minus a couple of good OF’s, the bounceback of Ike and Tejada, more consistency from Niese and the emergence of Wheeler, Montero, d’Arnaud and perhaps Flores, we’re right there. 2014 or 2015 could be really promising.

  9. Tom
    May 29, 2013 at 12:07 pm

    I mean to say like how Wheeler is expected (not Harvey).

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