It has been a tale of two seasons for the Mets so far in 2011. The sharpest breaking point for this is the return of Jason Bay, although it is an oversimplification to say that Bay is the cause of everything. But while Bay was on the disabled list, the Mets were 5-13. Since his return, the Mets are 10-5. Also, two of their losses since Bay returned happened while Bay was out on maternity leave. So, the Mets are actually 10-3 in games Bay played this season.
In the first 18 games, the Mets scored 72 runs, an average of 4.0 runs per game. In the last 15, the Mets have scored 69 runs, an average of 4.6 runs per game. On the other side of the coin, the Mets allowed 98 runs in their first 15 (6.5 rpg) and only 50 in their last 15 (3.3 rpg). So, while the offense has improved a noticeable amount, by far the biggest difference has come on the pitching side of things.
I have already pointed out how the bullpen stabilized once Sandy Alderson moved decisively to rid the team of some underperforming parts. Francisco Rodriguez has done his usual masterful job of walking the tightrope. He’s allowed 26 baserunners in 15.1 IP, yet has a 1.17 ERA with 9 saves in 10 save opportunities.
Terry Collins has done a good job of getting to Rodriguez with a combination of relievers. Right now bullpen health seems a bigger concern than bullpen performance for the Mets. Bobby Parnell and Pedro Beato are currently on the disabled list while many fear it’s only a matter of time until Jason Isringhausen and/or Taylor Buchholz joins them.
For the time being, let’s assume that the pitchers will stay healthy and keep the Mets in most games. Can the offense do its share? Can the Mets consistently put up 4-5 runs per game and win at a .667 clip the rest of the season? Let’s look at the last 15 games and see what we find. I’ll list the date, the opposing starter and how many runs the Mets scored in the entire game
4/21 – Happ – 9 runs
4/22 – Saunders – 4 runs
4/23 – Enright – 6 runs
4/24 – Galarraga – 8 runs
4/26 – Zimmermann – 6 runs
4/27 – Gorzelanny – 6 runs
4/28 – Livan – 3 runs
4/29 – Worley – 3 runs
4/30 – Halladay – 1 run
5/1 – Lee – 2 runs
5/3 – Vogelsong – 6 runs
5/4 – Lincecum – 0 runs
5/5 – J. Sanchez – 5 runs
5/6 – Kuroda – 6 runs
5/7 – Garland – 4 runs
Ten times, the Mets have scored four or more runs while they were held to three or fewer five times. Of those five games, three were pitched by Cy Young-caliber pitchers (Halladay, Lee, Lincecum), one by a crafty veteran (L. Hernandez) and only one by a pitcher that they should feel bad about not scoring more runs against (Worley).
While the Mets have yet to explode against a top-tier starter, they have beaten some credible pitchers (Zimmermann, Sanchez, Kuroda) and when the opposition throws out a bottom-feeder, they have reacted appropriately by scoring a lot of runs.
Early in the year, the Mets were getting little to no production from three spots in the lineup – LF, CF and 2B. Bay has brought some production to LF. Jason Pridie has done the same for CF, as has Daniel Murphy and 2B. Those three have combined to hit .257 (36-140), which does not sound like much until your realize that the guys they replaced were hitting a combined .177 (41-231).
The Mets have gotten outstanding production from Carlos Beltran (.923 OPS), Ike Davis (.952 OPS) and Jose Reyes (.875 OPS). Now instead of a stars and scrubs lineup, the Mets are able to put out a hitter at each position, meaning there are no easy outs anywhere in the lineup for the opposing hurler.
There’s no shame in getting shut down by Halladay or Lincecum. That the Mets’ offense struggled against those pitchers is no surprise. But what fans should be optimistic is how the team has hit against the non-Superman division of National League pitchers.
In the last 15 games, the Mets have a Pythagorean record of 10-5, exactly what their overall record is. The pitching is doing its part, as is the hitting. They looked like a second-division club the first three weeks of the season but have looked like a Wild Card contender since then.
Despite the horrendous start, the Mets are still in position to finish above .500 with their current lineup.