Friday, May 31, 2013

Yet Another Inconsistent Month for the Mets

Shale Briskin
MM Assistant Editor

First off, my apologies for the lack of new posts throughout this past month. As a result, I'm going to make up for the lost time by discussing all that has happened for the past few weeks.

2 months into this 2013 season, I was hoping to see the Mets take the next step and become a better all-around team than they have been since 2009. Unfortunately, that has yet to begin, although this recent 4-game sweep of the Yankees (the first ever in Mets history) was fun to see and could possibly be a sign of better days to come.
Nonetheless, the Mets have been very inconsistent this season and it was no different throughout May. The Mets struggled against teams like the Braves, Pirates, Cardinals and Reds. In fact, the only teams this month that the Mets were quite successful against were the Cubs and Yankees. 

All in all, a 12-14 month with one game to go tonight against the Marlins become the calendar moves to June was not something that Terry Collins and the Mets would have wanted to see.

Why the Mets struggled this year? There are quite a few reasons why. Offensively, the Mets for the most part have struggled mightily to score runs. As usual, David Wright has been a consistent contributor with a .290 average, 7 home runs and 30 RBI so far. The other consistent hitter thus far has been Daniel Murphy, who is batting .300 with 4 home runs, 24 RBI and 17 doubles. Murphy has taken big strides at the plate and should soon enough be considered one of the more elite second basemen in the National League.

One of the bigger surprises in April was John Buck, who now leads the Mets with 11 home runs and 35 RBI. However, he cooled off significantly in May and it remains to be seen whether he will hit like he did in April for the rest of the season.

In the outfield, Lucas Duda has gotten off to a good start with 9 home runs, 19 RBI and 28 walks. Hopefully, his power will continue throughout the rest of the season, unlike 2012 when he struggled so badly in July that he had to get demoted to the minor leagues.

Right fielder Marlon Byrd has been a pleasant surprise with 6 home runs and 24 RBI, after a completely lost season for him in 2012. New center fielder Rick Ankiel, whom the Mets signed after being released by the Astros has given the Mets an offensive boost as well.

However, the Mets have had other hitters struggle, with first baseman Ike Davis being by far the most notable underachiever on the team. Davis is hitting just .160 with 4 home runs and 13 RBI. It's clear that a demotion in June is possible if he does not make significant strides at the plate. Davis struggled in the first few months of the 2012 season as well, but got back to being a productive slugger by late June. Hopefully, a similar scenario will happen again for Davis, but there is only so much time that the Mets can afford to keep putting Davis in the lineup.

Shortstop Ruben Tejada, who was recently placed on the disabled list has underachieved as well, with a .209 average. Tejada was facing a possible demotion himself before the injury, but hopefully, he will be hitting better once he is healthy.

The outfield has also featured quite a few struggling hitters, including Collin Cowgill (now in the minor leagues), Kirk Nieuwenhuis (now in the minor leagues), Juan Lagares, Mike Baxter and Jordany Valdespin. It's clear that the Mets have not found too many long term solutions in the outfield, but an outfield of Duda, Ankiel and Byrd seems to be the most successful group thus far.

On the pitching side, Matt Harvey has been simply spectacular. The young right-hander is 5-0 with a 1.85 ERA and he would have had more wins if the Mets' offense at times gave him more run support.

The Mets' other starters though have struggled. Jon Niese (3-5, 4.40 ERA) has been inconsistent, Jeremy Hefner (1-5, 4.74 ERA) has either struggled or had bad luck with getting wins, and both Shaun Marcum (0-5, 5.77 ERA) and Dillon Gee (3-6, 5.68 ERA) have pitched poorly overall.

In the bullpen, most of the Mets' relievers have struggled, but Brandon Lyon (3.66 ERA) and LaTroy Hawkins (3.47 ERA) have done solid jobs as middle relievers and right-handed set-up men. Southpaw Scott Rice (3.08 ERA), who seems to pitch in nearly every game has had a great overall rookie season so far as arguably the Mets' most trusted left-handed reliever. The anchor of the bullpen has been closer Bobby Parnell, who has done very well in his first full season as the Mets' closer. Despite only having nine saves, Parnell is 4-1 with a 1.85 ERA and has already exceeded my expectations thus far into the season. He has been a far better closer than Frank Francisco ever was in 2012.

All in all, the 2013 Mets have not shown any signs that they are better than any of the other Mets teams from 2009-2012. The offensive run support needs to occur more consistently and the pitching just needs to keep performing well enough to keep the Mets in every game. Perfection will not happen every single game and this Mets team may not necessarily be destined for a postseason berth. Nonetheless, if the Mets can find a way to battle the Phillies for third place and finish at around .500 with 81-85 wins, that would be great to see.

2014-2015 is when the Mets should be ready to really contend with the Braves and Nationals. In the meantime, the Mets and their fans can look forward to the eventual major league debut of Zack Wheeler, which should occur by the middle of June and the 2013 MLB All-Star Game, which Citi Field will host on July 16.

Let's go Mets! Hopefully this recent winning streak can lead to a better season from the Mets than we have seen so far.

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