It’s a long season, and for most casual sports fans, baseball isn’t even on the radar until after the NBA finals (side rant: I hate the Lakers). But for the few pure baseball fans left, when the calendar turns to June, the season is hitting it’s stride. Basically, at this point, it’s too late for the “it’s too early” excuse. The sample size is big enough now, so it’s time to evaluate the team.
When the Mets started the season, their bullpen and started rotation looked scary bad. The bullpen surprised many by actually outperforming most of the league. I really don’t have too many criticisms of that crew, but I do worry about the way they are managed. Too many innings in April and May may mean more meltdowns in August and September.
The rotation has definitely suffered more than it’s share of setbacks: Maine’s ever-weakening arm, Niese’s hamstring, Perez’ brain. I wasn’t all that confident that this team could fill three rotation spots from within in a span of one week. But R.A. Dickey, Hisanori Takahashi and Raul Valdes (not technically a start, but c’mon…) pitched more than admirably. The rotation is by no means secure now, but looks a whole lot better than it did coming out of spring training.Â Santana and Pelfrey have been everything you could ask for.
The outfield has been better than I expected.Â Francouer is smooth in right and might have the most feared arm in the national league. Bay is better than advertised in left. Pagan is one of the best defenders and is one of the few fielders that can comfortably patrol the gigantic centerfield at CitiField.
The infield D has also been pretty tight.Â Wright seems to always be getting better at third, Reyes hasn’t lost a step, Castillo may not have much range, but doesn’t make many mistakes either, and having a real first baseman like Ike Davis makes a huge difference.
Blanco is perfect in throwing out runners and both he and Barajas have been calling good games.
Heck of a mixed bag here. At times, the whole team looks useless, and they went through another long stretch of utter futility with runners in scoring position. This has been a problem with them for years now. Then again, there are days when they seem to be able to manufacture a run almost at will. Most recently, they’ve been feasting on not only RISP situations, but they’ve gotten a bunch of ever-clutch two-out hits.
Reyes missed most of spring training and it showed during the month of April. His bat looked slow, he was tentative on the basepaths and he just seemed to be out of sync. Lately, he’s started shaking off the cobwebs. He’s driving the ball, hitting in clutch situations and wreaking havoc on opposing pitchers and catchers with his stolen base prowess. Back to the Reyes of old? Let’s hope.
The second spot in the lineup has been occupied by the second baseman every game this season. Luis Castillo and Alex Cora have both been fine in that role, if not spectacular.
Jason Bay is and always has been a very streaky hitter. He will not be hitting 40 homers this season. He may not be hitting 20 homers this season. So long as he’s hitting balls in the gap and driving in runners, I don’t really care. My guess though, is that he will be a source of frustration for a good part of the season.
Speaking of frustration… David Wright is still having issues with his offense. His power seems to have returned, but now he’s striking out at a ridiculously high rate. At his best, he thrived on 2-strike counts. Now, he looks over-matched in those situations most of the time.
Angel Pagan has been nothing short of spectacular. Statistically, he’s been the Mets’ best and most consistent hitter. He’s doing everything right now, whether it’s driving in runs, moving runners over, or setting up the big rallies. He’s also making sure the Mets have a tough decision to make when (if?) Beltran returns.
Remember when the Mets were putting Mike Jacobs at first base when the season started? He couldn’t play D, but at least he also couldn’t hit. He’s now long gone and We Like Ike is up and raking. Davis has been a bright spot since coming up. He’s not going to win Rookie of the Year, but he’s going to provide stability, and eliminate the question mark that’s been hanging over first base since Delgado stopped being able to hit fastballs.
Jeff Francouer’s stats would all be at 0 if we took away the first two weeks of the season. He’s shown a few flashes of coming out of this serious slump, but hasn’t quite put it all together yet. I like what he brings the team, but if he’s this bipolar with his hitting, he’s going to be some other team’s problem come August.
Rod Barajas has been a fly ball machine, which has translated into the team lead in homers. He’s also gotten plenty of clutch hits, and I can’t remember too many times when he’s been the goat. At the time, it didn’t make many headlines, but if the season ended today, Barajas would be one of the best free agent moves in all of baseball.
The bench isn’t great, but looks to be getting stronger with the addition of the Animal, Chris Carter. He’s a line-drive hitting maniac with a ton of energy and a propensity for clutch hits.
They’re just over .500. They’ve been amazing at home and miserable on the road. If they’re going to do anything interesting this season, they’ve got to keep up the success against Philly and Atlanta, but not forget about the improving Marlins and Nats. They’ve also got to get more consistent. It seems like this season, they only ever get good hitting and good pitching at the same time. It’d be nice to see a few games where the offense can bail out a bad pitching performance, or vice versa.
One thing the Mets have done very well this year is getting help from within the organization. Whether it’s position players or pitchers, the replacements that have come up all seem to have done really well. They still have a few more weapons down in the minors. Somehow, they’ve turned around the perennial wasteland of farm teams.
I’m cautiously optimistic about this year’s New York Mets. I think the division is close enough that no one is going to run away with it, and I think the Mets have what it takes to hang around the top for the summer.
If you’re looking for some good Mets reads out there on the interwebs, check out Metsblog. Matt Cerrone has done a great job with that site over the years and has a ton of great articles and links. Another site I’ve been loving this year is My Mets Journal where Joe Petruccio posts a hand-drawn picture for each game. Really entertaining stuff.