Optimism about the Mets continuing their recent strong play

2014 Mets CelebrateFor 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:

Travis d’Arnaud .811 .310
Lucas Duda .987 .326
Daniel Murphy .746 .342
David Wright 1.086 .365
Ruben Tejada .692 .364
Juan Lagares .660 .385
Curtis Granderson .801 .238

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.

11 comments for “Optimism about the Mets continuing their recent strong play

  1. Chris F
    July 12, 2014 at 10:24 am

    It is nice to watch the team win on a more regular basis. The chatter is so much more enjoyable! I think the key word to me is “cherry picked” stretch of games. We forget the darker times at our own peril, and the systematic failure of our second half play, which is atrocious. I’m hopeful too, and I like a number of the guys we have rolling, but my cautious side says were a 75 win team.

  2. Joe Gomes
    July 12, 2014 at 11:10 am

    Why are the Mets playing better?
    1. Starting pitching.
    2. Steady BP
    3. A logical lineup from an illogical manager. (finally)

    Not as much of the EY/CY/Abreu. Now some of those starts go to Capt. Kirk.
    d’Arnaud is batting 5th, Lagares although no leading off, is at least not batting behind Tejada. Duda finally batting 4th on a daily basis. Wright, not feeling that he has to carry the offense has started to hit again.

    That is why the Mets are playing better.

  3. Jerry Grote
    July 12, 2014 at 11:40 am

    but where do we go from here becomes the question. Sandy said let’s wait and see what happens through the weekend.

    Assume the better end; a sweep against the Marlins and Pods, a split of seven against the Brewers and Mariners. Finish the month 17 wins in 24 games and get to two games above .500.

    Buy? Buy what??

    • July 12, 2014 at 3:18 pm

      I would think it would depend on how we get to two games above .500

      If we assume a continuation of what we’ve seen so far — it would be for either a LF or a SP to replace Dice-K. Wouldn’t that be the ultimate irony? The Alderson-era Mets find themselves in a playoff race and have to trade for a starter.

      • Name
        July 12, 2014 at 9:14 pm

        You forget about Jon Niese?
        Not sure what others think, but i’m content with Syndergaard/Montero being the 6th/7th starters after the deadline. There should be zero reason for Disucky to reason any more starts (or be in the bullpen if i had my way) after July 31st.

        • James
          July 13, 2014 at 1:54 am

          Dice k has been pretty good and has certainly held his end of the bargain up for the rotation. To me he doesn’t come close to deserving that moniker you gave him even though he will likely lose his rotation spot shortly it shows more about our pitching depth than his performance.

          • Name
            July 13, 2014 at 11:44 am

            Disucky has been very very lucky this year and that’s the reason he still has a shiny ERA. He has a 4.24 ERA as a starter, which is well below average when you pitch half your games at Citi, strains the bullpen with his 5-6 inning appearances and is deliberately slow and even bores his own players on the field to death.
            This is a guy who has just 1 good season in 8 years, it was way back in 08 and has been horrendous in 4 of the 8 seasons. Yea, he’s had some decent results this year so far, but overall he’s still a terrible pitcher.

  4. Metsense
    July 12, 2014 at 11:50 am

    I think this team is very capable of playing .500 ball or slightly better the rest of the way. A 78 win season is a step in the right direction and 81 or above would be a very positive sign. If the Mets can’t play .500 ball the rest of the way, when all the players are playing near what is expected of them, then it would be an indictment that TC is not the manager to lead the team in 2015. If they fail, it should also open the eyes of Alderson that the team would need some major changes. I hope that they succeed and that option won’t have to be considered.
    If the team keeps performing as they have, and they get Harvey and Parnell back for 2015, then they are one established impact middle of the order outfielder away from contending. The better that player the better the team and their chances.
    I guess I have small scale optimism for the remainder of this year and major expectations for next year if Sandy and the Wilpon’s add that premier piece.

  5. Chris F
    July 12, 2014 at 3:34 pm

    Apologies for my first comment Brian.

    I think it is awesome to finally be reading a positive story about the team rather than the endless morass of failure that consumes most of the discussion.

    Regardless of the final W-L tally, what we’ve seen recently is what we should be applauding for, and I hope it rolls right on through the dog days of summer. How nice it has become to expect Duda to cruch a ball rather than expect him to K. Granny is a RISP standing in the box, just like Duda. We’ve seen some defensive gems, whether it’s Lagares taking the perfect line and some looking relaxed deep in the gap and waiting for the ball, or some improved DP skills by the middle infield. We seem to be generating runs playing small ball and long ball. We’ve beaten some of the finest pitchers in the game, and handily to boot. Between the lines looks like fun right now, and I’m sure that’s only helping everyone out there. The recent starts by deGrom, Wheeler, and Gee have been just what the doctor ordered. So too, it is nice to see Vic Black come in and locate pretty well along with Mejia, familia, and Edgin.

    Good job guys.

    let’s go Mets!

    • July 12, 2014 at 4:34 pm

      I didn’t find anything objectionable about your first comment.

  6. Patrick Albanesius
    July 14, 2014 at 2:53 am

    I moved to the West Coast, that’s the real reason we’re winning. You’re all welcome.

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