At the halfway point the Mets sit 8 games over .500 and 4 back of the surging Braves. This season has seen a number of surprises and has exceeded expectations (if there were any after last year). Let’s take a look at my report card for the 2010 Mets so far.
Starting Rotation - B
If you would have told me in January that the rotation would be a bright spot, I most likely would have called you a liar. Jon Neise has bounced back from injury to solidify the rotation. He has used his newly acquired cutter in better variation with his signature curveball. His 6-3 mark with a 3.61 ERA will continue to improve if he is able to keep the momentum he has said since his return. R.A. Dickey may be the name most synonymous with the 2010 Mets. A former first round fireballer, Dickey has come into his own at an ideal time for the Mets. He has shown an ability to get out of jams, and drive in his own run support. He set a team record winning the most consecutive starts for a pitcher in his first season with The Mets. His 2.77 ERA could be even lower if he didn’t have a small setback in Puerto Rico against the Marlins. Hisanori Takahashi has served valiantly in his time in the rotation. It seems that he runs out of gas around the 6th inning, but remarkable performances against the Yankees have marked his time here. His return to the bullpen, if and when The Mets acquire another starter, will put him back to where he was dominant early in the year. Mike Pelfrey sprinted out of the gate in 2010. He was an early candidate for the All-Star team (Thanks Charlie) and even the Cy Young Award. He has slipped lately but we have seen the flashes that we needed to see. Hopefully, he was just experiencing a little fatigue, and the break is exactly what he needed. Johan Santana has gotten an undeserved beating from the press this year. The media has questioned his status as an ace and continuously posted his dropping velocity as an issue. Santana could easily have 9 or 10 wins, and still retains in ERA under 3. His big issue has been the problems he has had in big games. He was shelled by the Phillies and then again by the Yankees. Nonetheless, his last start against the Braves put a lid on the constant media banter. He threw a complete game shutout and deterred Jerry Manuel from pulling him after Jason Bay dropped a fly ball in the 9th. We all understand he is not throwing as hard as he used to but his body of work should always give him the benefit of the doubt.
Offense - C+
David Wright is having quite possibly his best year in a Mets uniform. Early strikeouts had the faithful worried that their face of the franchise would continue to decline. He has since become a player of the month in June and has been an RBI leader in the NL. His average is sitting well over .300 and his power numbers have returned to where we would expect them to be. Jose Reyes has also begun his return to peak performance. If he can find a way to stop getting injured and stay on the field, we know what he can do at the top of the lineup. Angel Pagan has been the offensive surprise of the year. His numbers have given the Mets a controversy in the outfield upon the return of Carlos Beltran. He has been a consistent hitter and spark plug. He drives in runs as well as any hitter on the team and his 19 stolen bases and 6 home runs show how versatile a weapon he is. Ike Davis has come up and stabilized the middle of the lineup. A much needed lefty bat, he must be considered in the ROY talks for 2010. His home runs can be seen crashing into the Shea Bridge and giving fans a taste of the power to come over the course his career. Rod Barajas, although slumping lately, carried the Mets early in the year. His flare for the dramatic has made his offense a pleasant surprise for a usually power deprived club. The problem has been the corners of the outfield. The corners of the outfield are spots where teams put their thumpers and expect home runs and RBIs. Bay and Jeff Francouer have proven to be as streaky a combination as any corner outfielders in baseball. Their ability to look inept at the plate, at times, can make the Mets a team you can pitch to. Bay’s lack of power has the team watching Beltran’s knee with plenty of anxiousness. Francouer’s hot and cold tendencies have him most likely losing the most playing time when Carlos is ready to go after the break.
Defense - A
For me, the defense has seen the most dramatic improvement from last year. Amidst a 2009 plagued with injuries, Manuel was on the verge of being fired. Many said it wasn’t Omar or Jerry’s fault, but the fluke injury storm. The argument for those opposed to Jerry as manager was the poor fundamentals. Errors became commonplace for the 2009 Mets. The defense at time was laughable and we were all shaking our heads. This year the infield defense has been shored up by Reyes and the rookies Davis and Ruben Tejada. Davis has become the stable defensive first baseman the infield has been missing. His rail flipping catches have been commonplace and he has even helped Wright have more confidence in his throws. Barajas and Henry Blanco have been leaders on the field and off. They are a defensive presence we have not had in a long time. The two veterans have helped to shape the defense behind the plate as well as the staff. Pagan has done the unthinkable and replaced Beltran in center. He has played like a gold glover and his range is outstanding. Francouer has prevented teams from taking the extra base on an almost consistent basis. Bay has also been surprising in left. The belief that Bay would compromise our defense has been proven to be false. Instead, he has covered ground well and showed off a strong arm. Despite a blunder in the 9th inning against the Braves, Jason has proven that Peter Gammons’ report on his bad knees was most likely embellished.
Bullpen - C-
The Mets have been walked off more than any team in baseball…enough said. Elmer Dessens has become arguably the most reliable reliever. That might be the scariest statement in the history bullpens everywhere. This bullpen has given up the long ball in more clutch situations than any team I can remember. It looks like many of them went to the “Armando Benitez School of Clutch Pitching”. K-Rod, although his numbers are fine, cannot come in the game without putting the tying runs on base. Even when he gets the save, which to his credit is most of the time, it doesn’t come without a few walks or line drives. Ryota Igarashi showed amazing potential in the early going and was soon injured. His return and Dan Warthen’s tinkering have made him a mess. Pedro Feliciano’s desire to pitch in the 8th inning has led to some bad outings. The right handed bats around the league don’t exactly cringe when junk throwing lefties come in for the 8th inning. Fernando Nieve, like Igarashi, was great in the beginning of the year. Manuel liked him so much that he decided to pitch him every game possible. Nieve was soon burnt out and getting rocked during his appearances. There is hope on the way if Bobby Parnell can claim the 8th inning job and continue to show maturity.
The Mets have shown the ability to contend if all goes well. The holes are fixable and not as gaping as in years past. If Beltran can give the team a boost and Bay can wake up, the offense should see a big improvement. The starting rotation should receive some help if Minaya is hoping to retain his job, and the defense will continue to help out the staff. The bullpen will continue to be an issue if Parnell cannot nail down the 8th. There is only so long you can rely on Dessens before he realizes that he’s a journeyman for a reason. Feliciano has been amazing for the Mets, but he is much more effective against lefties. We cannot hope that he will be able to strikeout big righty sluggers in September. The Mets have important intangibles on their side. They show fight late in games, they bounce back after tough losses, and Johan and Pelfrey have proven to be stoppers. It is going to be a battle to grab a playoff spot with the Rockies rearing their heads and the Phillies sure to bounce back. With that said, things are only going to get more intense as the season goes on. Lets Go Mets!