Wednesday, July 15, 2015

In The Shadows

The best way to describe the first half of the 2015 Mets season would be that they've been lurking. They've been basically hanging on the fringes of being a real contender, while teetering on the brink of general obscurity. They've looked really good at times, and then astoundingly horrible at other times, which I suppose is to be expected from a team that's still trying to figure out how to win. What's worked in their favor is that the team that was supposed to be burying them in the standings, the Washington Nationals, can't get out of their own way either, and so the Mets find themselves at the All Star Break only two games out of 1st place. But still, this team has enough flaws that it's tough to figure out if they're a contender or if they'd be better served waiting for next season. That's how in-between this season has been.

What's gone Right:
1) Jeurys Familia
After Jenrry Mejia didn't answer the bell on Opening Day, and then didn't clear the Winstrol out of his system, the closer role for the Mets was once again in flux. Bobby Parnell wasn't ready and wasn't himself. Vic Black was on another planet. So the first crack at the job went to Jeurys Familia and all Familia has done with the role has take it and run. It's not outlandish to say that Familia has been the Mets MVP to this point this season; 27 Saves in 29 Opportunities and a microscopic 1.25 ERA speaks for itself. The question now isn't whether he can handle the role, it's how he reacts when the stakes get higher.

2) Jacob deGrom
The lone Mets All Star has pretty much squashed the fears of a sophomore jinx, as he's looked better than he did last year most of the time. A few hiccups in early May, but otherwise, deGrom has been the best starter the Mets have had all season and there's not much debate on that.

3) The Rookie Pitchers
I'll lump in Steven Matz with Noah Syndergaard if only because Matz has had two starts and was really good in both, and now we just have to hope that the Mets aren't selling us another lather job on his lat injury. Syndergaard has been the real story, because for the most part he's looked exactly as good as advertised through his first 11 starts while looking less and less like a 22-year old Rookie every time he takes the mound.

4) Matt Harvey
I say that Harvey has gone right this season, not based on the numbers, but because for the most part it appears his recovery from the Big Boy Surgery has been a success. His stuff is back; this is evident even on the days when his arm might not agree with him. The fear I had was that he'd fall into some bad Bill Pulsipher zone but it seems apparent that that won't happen.

What's Been OK:
1) Lucas Duda
For the first two months of the season, Duda had gone from one of the best hitters on the team to one of the best hitters in the league. But without any viable protection in the lineup, Duda started pressing and falling into bad habits and the result was a June performance that rivaled any of his worst pre-2014 follies. He appeared to be creeping out of it around the All Star Break but if nobody around him hits, he's going to have more problems.

2) Wilmer Flores
It took Flores some time, but for a while there he was one of the best bats the Mets had going. He started running cold again in June but his numbers remain respectable. Part of the problem with Flores is that so many people seem to be so anti-Flores because he made a few errors early in the season that they just don't buy into the idea that he's a viable Major Leaguer and that's a mistake. Don't believe what you read. Flores is a good hitter and he wouldn't be here if that weren't the case. Give him enough of a chance and he'll prove this to be true.

3) Travis d'Arnaud
I'd say Travis d'Arnaud would have gone under "what's gone right" except he can't stay on the field. Durability was always an issue for him and now it's come to a head because the Mets lineup has really suffered without him.

4) The Bullpen
The starting rotation has been the overwhelming strength of the team so far, but the Bullpen has been good, too. We talked about Familia already, but other pitchers like Bobby Parnell, Hansel Robles, Erik Goeddel, Jack Leathersich and Sean Gilmartin have also had some good moments (and I'm not including the Torreses here). As with any bullpen, they've had blowups, but in general they've done all right.

What's Gone Wrong
1) Most of the Offense
I'm not sure where to start here. It would take me too long to go over this individually so maybe it's easier to just lump people together by level of putridity:
Sucks: Michael Cuddyer, John Mayberry, Eric Campbell, Anthony Recker, Kirk Nieuwenhuis (Sunday notwithstanding), Johnny Monell, Daniel Muno, basically everyone on the bench
Stinks: Ruben Tejada, Daniel Murphy, Kevin Plawecki
Tepid: Curtis Granderson, Dilson Herrera, Juan Lagares.
Do with this information what you will.

2) Injuries
How many more years of multiple roster-crippling injuries do the Mets have to endure before they realize that this particular medical staff isn't working? When you lead the league in Big Boy Surgeries, and when you have key players getting diagnosed with minor injuries that take half a season to get better, there's a disconnect and I'm truly baffled as to why nothing has been done about this after 6 years. Maybe if they were the training staff for the Brooklyn Cyclones, Ratso Wilpon would do something about it.

3) Inactivity
So, when you have so many players out for lengthy periods of time with no timetable for return, you'd think upper management would try to do something to make this better, right? Well, to this point that hasn't happened, and much like I'm baffled by the medical staff, I'm baffled as to why Sandy Alderson hasn't made some kind of move, even if it was just something cosmetic to let us know he's trying. Is the financial situation of the team really still that much of an issue? Somewhere, someone's not telling the truth and all any of us are able to do is conjecture over what the real problem here is, and in the meantime, a once-promising season is teetering on the brink of going down the shitter just like all of the 6 years before that unless something is done to save it. But then again, it may be beyond saving. We keep getting sold on this bill of goods that "Oh, 2014 is the year..." "Oh, 2015 is the year..." Now, we're hearing "Oh, 2016 is the year..." until something else stupid happens and they change their mind again. At some point they have to just say Fuck it and go for the cup and stop worrying about whatever it is they're afraid of.

So, then, the Mets have 73 games left to get this thing right. They're 47-42 and two games out of 1st place and have every opportunity to strike, but can they take advantage of it?

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