When David Wright took Florida Marlins closer Leo Nunez deep in the ninth inning on Wednesday night, it marked the Mets’ 95th home run of the season. Why is that number significant? With 36 games left to play, the Mets already have equaled their homer total from last year.
When home run number is 96 attained, the Mets officially will have taken a step away from the acute power outage that was 2009. The Mets’ 95 home runs last season easily were the fewest in the National League, which had its other 15 teams average 159 homers last year. The San Francisco Giants checked in with 127 homers to mark the second fewest in the league, but that mark stood as a substantial upgrade from the 94 the Giants hit in 2008 – the franchise’s first year in the post-Barry Bonds era. The 2009 Mets and 2008 Giants are the only two major league teams since the strike-shortened 1995 campaign to produce only double-digit home runs over the course of a season. Even in 1995, the Rico Brogna-led Mets homered 125 times in 144 games.
It was fitting that the 95th blast of 2010 came off the bat of Wright, who already has doubled his home run output of 10 from last year. Proving that 2009 was an aberration, Wright is on pace to hit 27 homers in 2010 – just shy of the 29-home run average from his first four full seasons in the majors.
It would be fitting if No. 96 comes from rookie Ike Davis, who has restored legitimate offensive punch to the first base position after Carlos Delgado‘s hip failed him last May. Davis has 15 home runs in 401 at-bats this season, just one short of the total hit by all Mets first basemen in 2009. Last year, the first base combination of Delgado, Daniel Murphy, Fernando Tatis, Jeremy Reed and Nick Evans needed 626 at-bats to reach 16 homers. Half of them belonged to Murphy, who batted 380 times as the Mets’ first baseman.
Murphy ended up leading the 2009 Mets with 12 homers, including three as an outfielder and one as a pinch hitter. Multiple knee injuries prevented last year’s team home run champ from even getting a major league at-bat this year, but it was Murphy’s absence that accelerated Davis’ promotion to Flushing. Before Murphy’s second knee injury, which will cost him the rest of the season, he was getting reacquainted with second base while with the Buffalo Bisons of the Class AAA International League.
Hitting 95 home runs through 126 games certainly will not get the 2010 Mets confused with the 1927 Yankees. After all, the Mets still rank in the bottom third of the NL in that category this year. However, with one of the leaders of the modest roundtripper renaissance being the 23-year-old first baseman of the future provides hope for Delgado-esque seasons ahead in the middle of the Mets order. Delgado began his first full major league season at age 23 in 1995, when he produced the first of 13 consecutive 20-homer seasons – a streak that ended last year. Five homers separate Davis from achieving the first 20-homer season by a rookie first baseman in franchise history.
Delgado was last seen playing for the Pawtucket Red Sox against the Bisons, who struck him out four times in six at-bats in mid-August, before hip troubles resurfaced and another DL stint ensued. While the Mets’ last slugging first baseman’s career is drawing to a close, a new one is helping the franchise regain power respectability.