With the All Star Break underway, the New York Mets are one game above .500 at 46-45 on the season, and trail the wild card leading Atlanta Braves by 7.5 games. The Mets have certainly exceeded expectations thus far in 2011, as most fans would’ve expected them to be way out of the playoff run at this point in the season. Now, this doesn’t mean Mets fans should get crazy excited about making a push for October baseball. Three of the team’s four starting infielders (David Wright, Ike Davis, and Jose Reyes) are currently on the disabled list, and will probably make their return after the trade deadline. But, regardless, the Mets have played very nice baseball over the first 91 games of the season, and I’m going to evaluate the areas that deserve the most credit.
With a Mets rotation missing Johan Santana in the ace role and two big question marks at the back end, you’d be quite shocked they have a winning record at the All Star Break. Well, luckily the Mets starters have come through pretty big this season. Before going down with a season-ending injury, Chris Young was the ace of the staff for four starts. Since the start of May, the Mets have rolled out Mike Pelfrey, Jonathon Niese, R.A. Dickey, Chris Capuano, and Dillon Gee. The biggest story in the rotation has been Gee. This no-name prospect heading into 2011 won his first seven decisions and the Mets won in each of his first 10 starts. Since, he has come back down to Earth, but has posted a solid 3.76 ERA through 14 starts in 2011. Capuano has been another surprise in the rotation, as he is arguably the most consistent pitcher there, giving the Mets a chance to win in each of his outings. He is 8-8 on the year with a 4.12 ERA.
With disappointing seasons out of Mike Pelfrey and R.A. Dickey (4.55 ERA and 3.61 ERA, respectively), the Mets starting rotation has still gotten the job done over stretches of a few weeks at a time. As of late, it has looked like these two have been coming around. Lastly, Jonathon Niese has met expectations in his role, and I still feel he has the highest ceiling out of the bunch.
Mets Pitching Staff: B-
The Mets bullpen has been similar to most major league bullpens, in that their relievers have struggled to find consistency in their performance. I did like that, in April, Sandy Alderson had a “no mercy” type attitude towards the bullpen. Once he saw a flaw, he made a move to fix it. Currently, Jason Isringhausen, Pedro Beato, Bobby Parnell, and Francisco Rodriguez are fixtures in a ‘pen that was fairly makeshift coming out of spring training. Beato, Isringhausen, and K-Rod were lights out to begin the season, but have since regressed a bit. Still, I have been very impressed with the bunch. Not to mention, Parnell (hits 100 MPH on the radar gun) has now jumped into the running as the Mets future closer, as trade rumors loom around K-Rod. They had a stretch in May where the bullpen pitched 23 consecutive scoreless innings.
Mets Bullpen: B
The Mets offense has had its ups and downs over the course of the 2011 season. However, considering Ike Davis and David Wright have missed the majority of the year so far, the lineup has done some surprising things. Lets also not forget that there were huge question marks surrounding Carlos Beltran before the start of the season. He has been a savior this season, launching a team-leading 13 home runs and driving in 58 runs. He has built a case for himself that his career is far from over and his knees are only an afterthought. Players like Daniel Murphy, Justin Turner, and Ruben Tejada have stepped up to the occasion, combining to drive in 89 runs as a trio.
Jose Reyes has been the most talked about player in the major leagues. He was hitting .354 with 65 runs scored and 30 stolen bases before a left hamstring injury pushed him to the DL until August. He has been the catalyst for a Mets team with holes in their lineup. He livens up the entire squad with the excitement he brings to the field (and his signature “claw” move).
Finally, if I were to tell you that Jason Bay would be hitting .237 with only 6 home runs and 28 rbis through 65 games this season, would you believe the Mets are 5th in the National League in runs scored. Well, you better because it’s true. And the Mets are 14th in the NL with only 58 home runs to boot. Much of their offensive success has come with two outs, as they lead the National League in 136 runs driven in. That is clutch hitting. I don’t remember any other Mets squad that has produced quite like that.
Mets Offense: B+
Overall, the Mets offense has been the most impressive part of their game this season, although they have a pretty big obstacle ahead of them without Reyes in the lineup. The pitching has been solid at times, but ineffective also. Since Alderson has made it clear that K-Rod will be traded before the deadline, they are expected to have a huge question mark in the closer role in August and September. The Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves are just too potent to overtake this season and I think it is in the best interest of the New York Mets to look towards the future.