At the risk of sounding facile and trite, the New York Mets have been…well…amazin’ so far this season. In a season that’s 74 days old as this is written, they’ve been in first place 49 of them. Anyone who thought that would happen before the season started, raise your hand and be called a liar. They’ve had a spate of “comeback” wins of late, including two inspiring walkoff wins in the span of five days. They’re five games over the .500 mark, and doing all that without having their Captain, David Wright in the lineup since game number eight and missing their starting catcher – noted more for his work with the bat — for 46 games. They’ve been without their, arguably, most consistent hitter for the past two weeks. They’ve dealt with more injuries than any team should have to. They’ve had signature performances from Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey and Bartolo Colon, as well as a glimpse into the bright future of Noah Syndergaard.
Everyone knew that the pitching would be their strength this year, and it has been. Everyone thought the offense would be middling-to-good. It has not been. The Mets’ leading everyday player in terms of bWAR is Lucas Duda, with a number of 1.5. The National League leader for that metric is Washington’s Bryce Harper at 5.2. And while it’s unfair to compare Duda to Harper – heck it’s unfair to compare Harper to anyone this side of Mike Trout – the Nats’ second place bWAR man is Duda’s equal and two other teams in the NL East each have two position players with a better bWAR number. And Duda has just started to come out of a pretty bad slump, where he was tending towards swinging wildly at pitches near his ankles. No, the heavy lifting this season has been done by the starting pitchers. If you’ve been a Met fan for a long time, this is nothing new.
Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Nolan Ryan, Jon Matlack, Gary Gentry, Al Leiter, Rick Reed…they all had to shoulder the loads left by poor offense, and they all pitched for the Mets in the post-season and in exciting near-miss seasons. Just for the heck of it, let’s look at the 1972 season – a pretty terrific comp for 2015, in your intrepid columnists’ humble opinion. It was a year when the Mets started hot, made a big splash when they brought Willie Mays back to New York, held on to first through a wave of injuries and finished with 83 wins, in defiance of a Pythagorean record which said they should not have won more than 72. They were in first place or second place through July 1, hanging onto the top spot a total of 56 days. Their top four bWAR performers? All pitchers: Matlack (6.0), Seaver (5.6), Tug McGraw (4.2) and Jim McAndrew (3.3). For the record, their top position player in terms of bWAR was de facto starting catcher – Jerry Grote spent much of the year injured — Duffy Dyer, who clocked in at 1.7. By contrast, the pennant winning Cincinnati Reds won 95 games and had top five bWAR contributions from Joe Morgan (9.3), Johnny Bench (8.6), Pete Rose (6.0), Bobby Tolan (4.9) and Tony Perez (4.7) before they even got to a pitcher – Gary Nolan’s 3.2.
It was only in the Mets’ “Golden Age” – 1984 through 1990 — that the offense could match pitching. If a new dominant era is to occur, the offense must be improved upon. These pitchers deserve it.
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