The baseball season is 162 games long and that’s about how many columns I write for the site in a year. Not one of my columns is a game recap, which means there’s an awful lot of opinion pieces. Anyone who gives that many opinions in a year is going to be wrong more than once. And that’s okay. Actually the ones that go wrong are often times fascinating. Nowhere has that been truer this year than with Marlon Byrd.
It’s safe to say I didn’t see much point in bringing Byrd to Spring Training. But he hit well in Grapefruit League action and essentially has never stopped hitting. My take in late Spring was to ride it for as long as it lasted and then at the first hint of trouble – cut the cord and don’t look back. My expectations for Byrd were minimal and I would have given odds that he wouldn’t have lasted this long in the majors.
Instead he has 15 HR and 49 RBIs with three games left before the All-Star break. And as impressive as his offense has been, I’ve also been caught off guard with the other elements of his game. Byrd is a much better defender than anticipated and he should be held up as a model for how one should play the game. Byrd hustles on every play and if the 35 year old can do it, there’s no reason for guys in their 20s to be loafing on any ball they hit.
While there are concerns about the manager running him into the ground, my fears about him having a giant fork sticking out of his back have been laid to rest. Byrd has been an amazing surprise and while there are whispers that the club should deal him for prospects, I would be more than happy to see him on the team the rest of the year. Even as he gives daily reminders on how wrong I was about his chances in 2013.
WATCH WHEELER WORK, BABY – Decisions have been a hard thing to come by for starting pitchers of the Mets here in 2013. Yet rookie Zack Wheeler is 3-1 in five starts and if Wednesday’s outing against the Giants is any indication, he will get plenty of more starts before the end of the year. The only thing likely to hold Wheeler back is a club-imposed innings limit. Back in May, Sandy Alderson indicated the club would likely hold Wheeler to 180 or so innings. By comparison, Matt Harvey was shut down after 169.1 combined innings last year.
Wheeler tossed 68.2 innings in the minors, so he might be allowed to throw around 115 innings in the majors this season. If Wheeler tops triple digits in the majors, he will become just the third Mets pitcher this century to eclipse 100 innings in his rookie season. Dillon Gee tossed 160.2 innings in 2011, Hisanori Takahashi had 122 IP in 2010 and Jae Weong Seo delivered 188.1 IP back in 2003. The last rookie younger than Wheeler to reach 100 IP for the Mets was Bill Pulsipher, who was 21 when he threw 126.2 innings in 1995.
OMAR NEEDS WORK ON HIS Q SCORE – It should be easy to forgive Omar Quintanilla if he wondered if he would ever get a fair shot in the majors. Even after his solid 2012, in which he posted an 85 OPS+, he still could not get a major league deal. The rest of MLB’s loss was the Mets’ gain, as Quintanilla again has hit for the club when given a chance. In parts of two seasons in New York, Quintanilla has a 95 OPS+ in 241 PA, an excellent mark for a shortstop. He’s never played a full season in the majors but Quintanilla should get the chance to do that for the first time next year. And it should be with the Mets.
MORE ON TC’s LEFTY RELIEVERS – Terry Collins has managed the Mets for two-and-a-half seasons now and if there’s anything we’ve learned about him, it’s that he loves his lefty relievers. Collins has used 11 lefties out of the pen and they’ve combined to allow 117 ER in 218 IP. That works out to a 4.83 ERA. And that’s with Collins bending over backwards to give his lefties the most advantageous work conditions on the staff. Here are the culprits:
The National League had an average bullpen ERA of 3.66 in this time frame.
POWER OUTAGE CONTINUES FOR DAVIS – Despite a slow start in 2012, Ike Davis cracked 32 home runs last year and more of the same was expected in 2013. But Davis hit just 5 HR in his first 186 ABs before being sent to the minors. In Triple-A, Davis belted 7 HR in 75 ABs and the hope was that he rediscovered his power stroke. But not only is Davis homerless since his recall, he’s yet to deliver an extra-base hit in 17 ABs. Before his demotion, Davis went 15 ABs without an extra-base hit, so he’s sitting on a 32 AB-streak without a double, triple or homer.
OFFENSE COMES ALIVE – Davis may not be pulling his weight but the rest of the offense is coming through over the last three-plus weeks. Since the doubleheader against the Braves, the Mets have scored 124 runs in 23 games, an average of 5.4 runs per game. In a related note, the Mets are 15-8 in that span.