Too Early to Give Up on New York Mets, Too Early for Hope
We are now over six weeks into what already seems like a long season. New York Mets fans sorely miss the Cy Young level performance of R.A. Dickey (who seems to be missing New York just as well), and Travis D’arnaud has a broken foot that has sidelined him already. Matt Harvey has exceeded any and all expectations, but the days in which he isn’t pitching make the Mets look like the Houston Astros.
The season is not even 40 games old, and the Mets are well below .500, with the non-Harvey part of the rotation posting a 5.71 ERA. David Wright and Lucas Duda have been posting superb wOBAs of .401 and .375 so far, but the lack of any baserunners with these players up has led to a meager combined RBI total of 36.
The next highest on-base average of any regular player is Daniel Murphy‘s .310 mark. Even with Duda, the Mets’ outfield rank 27th in the league in total offense, according to wRC+.
To the fan that just watched the Mets drop four straight losses, the future of the season already seems lost; however, there is still plenty of evidence to the contrary.
Manager Terry Collins with his team of Bob Geren, Tom Goodwin and Tim Teufel has managed to maximize the efficiency of his baserunners, as Fangraphs writer Jack Moore has pointed out. Their runners take the extra base at every opportunity, taking advantage of poor arms of the opposition in the outfield and catcher positions.
Even the slowest runners such as John Buck seem to be taking third on every possible single. The phenomenal baserunning thus far has allowed the Mets to score more runs than league average, and this may be foreshadowing.
Last season, the Mets finished 20th in the league in OBP, but 25th in runs scored. If they continue to manufacture runs, we will see the runs scored begin to elevate without any improvement in OBP, and with lack of Jason Bay on the roster, the team may move toward the middle of the pack in scoring, rather than in the bottom quarter.
This will become even more apparent as players such as Ike Davis break out of their under-performing habits. Ike’s struggles have been painful to watch, but he should he come out of his funk with the same kind of performance he demonstrated last year. He may see more runners in scoring position for every single he contributes, and he may be on third base much more often with less than two outs.
Ike isn’t the only player who is due for some regression. While Jon Niese likely wasn’t as good as his 3.40 ERA last year suggests (his Fielding-Independent Pitching number was 3.80), he certainly is not a hapless hurler who walks as many as he strikes out.
The same goes for Dillon Gee and Shaun Marcum, who were solid pitchers in 2012. The effects of the early series in Minnesota and Colorado, which featured frigid weather and many irregular scheduling, may have taken their tolls in the short term, but as the weather heats up, the Mets will likely see some regression from the middle of their rotation.
There will also be some help from the minor leagues. Fans can take solace in the recent performance of Zach Wheeler. In his last three starts, Wheeler has allowed just three runs in 20 innings, an extremely tough feat in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.
What’s more, Wheeler is showing impressive command, striking out 19 batters and walking only three. Before 2012, Wheeler was touted to perform even better than Matt Harvey, which, considering Harvey’s performance thus far, should make Mets fans salivate.
Take a look at the standings in May of last year. On May 14, 2012, the World Series-winning San Francisco Giants were 18-17. Their opponents, the Detroit Tigers, were 17-18. Atop their respective divisions were the Los Angeles Dodgers, who from that point on were 62-65, and the Cleveland Indians, who from then on were an abysmal 49-78. Both teams missed the playoffs.
Additionally, the Los Angeles Angels and Milwaukee Brewers were six and five games under .500, respectively, and both ended with winning percentages above .500. The Mets have under-performed but there are still 127 games for them to play.
By the middle of the season, the stats of today will be long forgotten, and the team will be in contention for a wild card spot. Matt Harvey will be competing for a Cy Young award.
Don’t expect a World Series this year, but don’t turn the dial just yet.