For over three weeks now, the Mets have been playing pretty solid baseball. In their last 22 games, they are 12-10, despite going 1-7 in the middle of that stretch. In this cherry-picked span, the Mets as a team have played better on both sides of the ball. They’ve hit 23 HR in 22 games and have posted a .765 OPS in this period. Their pitching staff has a 3.08 ERA with a 2.73 K/BB ratio. The starters have hurled 14 Quality Starts in this span, including the last six games in a row.
From a hitting perspective, the Mets were done in early in the season thanks to a below-average season from their third baseman and black-hole performances from C, SS and LF. But lately they’ve been getting much better production up and down the lineup. Here’s what the regulars have done since June 18:
While it’s troublesome to see the BABIPs required from Tejada and Lagares to post a sub-.700 OPS, the rest of the team looks very encouraging. Both d’Arnaud and Duda are above their expected BABIP levels but neither to a huge degree and both have room to fall, production-wise, and still be valuable to the lineup. Wright has always posted high BABIPs and is essentially in the same class as the previous two guys mentioned. Murphy’s production versus his BABIP is a bit worrisome but Granderson in the same comparison looks terrific. Even the left fielders have contributed in these last 22 games. The starters in this position have posted a .253 AVG (19-75), comfortably above the Mendoza Line performance they could not exceed earlier in the season.
As for pitching, early in the season the bullpen was a major cause for concern and the starters only escaped deserved scrutiny thanks to the poor performances elsewhere on the team. But recently both ends of the pitching equation have been performing well. The starters have a 3.16 ERA and the relievers have a 2.83 ERA in 60.1 IP
Bartolo Colon had back-to-back poor outings, but pitched at least six innings each time out and had a 3.65 ERA in five starts covering 37 innings. Zack Wheeler hurled a Quality Start in four of his five games and posted a 2.67 ERA in 30.1 IP. Jacob deGrom rebounded from his poorest start of the year to notch four straight strong games. He has a 1.75 ERA with a 3.75 K/BB ratio in 25.2 innings in this span. Dillon Gee and Jon Niese have combined for three wins in their four starts. Even the weak link of the rotation, Daisuke Matsuzaka, has done a half-decent job, packing most of his poor results in two outings and being quite good in the other two.
Last Sunday, we went over how good the bullpen has been performing. Of course, the pen turned around to allow three earned runs in three straight games right after that article was published. But even the most pessimistic fan out there recognizes the improvement in the relievers from the beginning of the year. Now if only the manager would get the memo that it’s okay to allow a reliever to perform without the platoon advantage with no one on base and the club holding a six-run lead.
Sandy Alderson got raked over the calls in the beginning of the month when he admitted that he liked this team and thought it was better than it had been performing on the field due to the status of its run differential. At the time, the club was double-digits under .500 despite a near even run differential. In their last 22 games, the Mets have scored 96 runs and allowed 73. Even in this span, the Mets are still under-performing their run differential. Pythagoras thinks they should be 14-8 in this period.
The components are in place for the Mets to perform significantly better in the second half of the season than they did in the first. Wright performing like he has throughout his career makes a huge difference for the lineup. While no one looks at the offense and thinks juggernaut, it makes a huge difference when there aren’t three automatic non-pitcher outs. Speaking of the pitchers, even they are chiming in with some hits now, with Wheeler’s RBI double Saturday night the latest example from the group which opened the year 0-64, the longest hitless drought in MLB history.
Meanwhile, the team has cycled through the relievers, with four members of the Opening Day bullpen no longer on the team. The result is a pretty nice pen, assuming Carlos Torres’ arm doesn’t fall off and that Terry Collins doesn’t abuse the rest of them with his matchup masturbation.
For me, it all comes down to the starters. If the SP can consistently provide what they have over the past three weeks, the Mets will play entertaining – dare I say meaningful – games through the end of the year. But if they will is anyone’s guess. Will Colon even be on the club in three weeks? Can Gee and Niese stay healthy? Will deGrom be able to make it through the year or will he hit a wall, whether due to other teams catching up to him or a team-imposed innings limit? Will anyone from the minors be able to provide a spark at the end of the year?
That’s a lot of question marks and undoubtedly at least one will be answered in an unhelpful way for the Mets. Still, I’m with Alderson. I kind of like this team, too. My belief is that the record will move in the direction of the run differential and that they won’t lose two out of every three one-run games that they play moving forward.
Here’s to enjoyable baseball.