The Mets are up to their batting gloves in mediocrity. They’re not bad. They’re not good. They win one day. They lose the next. They score nine runs one day. They score none the next. The bullpen is lights out one day. They get their lights punched out the next. They’re slightly under .500 since the end of last May. Once the undisputed rulers of the National League, they are now just another National League team, drowning in a sea of parity. They are on the cusp of becoming irrelevant. Not bad, not good, not anything.
- Ryan Church (.309, 32 RBI) has been the biggest surprise, and the team MVP. The Mets have been struggling since he went down with a concussion.
- David Wright is on pace for another 30 homer, 100+ RBI season
- Jose Reyes may have figured something out. After studying video clips, he realized his stride was too long. Since then, he’s hit in eleven straight, and has been driving the ball the way he used to.
- Billy Wagner reinvented himself and is having one of his best seasons to date.
- Johan Santana hasn’t been dominant, but he leads the Mets in innings, wins, strikeouts, and ERA. The starting rotation would be a mess without him.
- Carlos Delgado has been the key to the Mets’ struggles at the plate. The Mets acquired Delgado to be their cleanup hitter. He was everything they wanted in 2006, hitting 38 homers, and backing up Carlos Beltran, leading the other Carlos to 41 dingers. In the past two years, however, he has clearly declined, and is a solid six hitter at best. He simply can’t catch up to a major league fastball anymore. The Mets lineup has suffered without the old Delgado’s presence in the number four spot in the order.
- The bullpen has struggled to get the ball to Wagner. They’re still missing a solid eighth inning man. Duaner Sanchez has been effective, save for one outing, but the team is reluctant to push him too hard following his injury. And regular setup man Aaron Heilman has looked lost all year. The bullpen’s most reliable pitcher has been Scott Schoeneweis. ‘Nuff said.
- The bench, a strength on paper, has been horrible, batting under the Mendoza line for the season.
- Injuries to Pedro Martinez, Orlando Hernandez, Moises Alou, Angel Pagan, Ryan Church, and others have had an impact.
- Carlos Beltran looks like Superman one day and Marty Feldman the next. He’s always been streaky, but his lack of power this year (4 homers) has been alarming. Is he suffering from a lack of a fearsome number five hitter, or is he just tired of playing for Willie Randolph, as some have speculated? Or is it just all mechanical?
- Willie Randolph hasn’t been bad. He hasn’t been good either. Fans are growing impatient with his upbeat, prepackaged postgame comments. He comes across as disingenuous. And he didn’t help himself with his racially-motivated comments about how he has been treated by the media. I guess Art Howe, Jeff Torborg, and Bud Harrelson got a free pass? Randolph’s job is legitimately in jeopardy. If the Mets are still mediocre by at least the All-Star break, he may have to start reading the ol’ classifieds.
The Mets are now in the middle of their first truly important series of the year versus the Marlins. They can either make a statement by winning the last two games, or make an even bigger statement by losing one or both games.
So who did everybody pick to win the National League East this year? The Mets? The Phillies? Don’t forget about those Braves. So, in mid-May which one of these teams has the early lead? Try the Marlins.
Coming into 2008, the Marlins seemed to be made up of has-beens, never-weres, and never-will-bes. It turns out, they’re actually wiley veterans, late bloomers, and pleasant surprises. The big question this early in the season is, of course, are they for real?
The starting rotation is led by Scott Olsen, who at 4-1 with a 2.22 ERA, is finally fulfilling his potential. Mark Hendrickson, owner of a 4.93 career ERA, has been a fine number two, boasting a 5-1 record. Andrew Miller, Ricky Nolasco, and Burke Badenhop (which is now the greatest name in baseball history – though it would be better if he were an infielder) have performed as expected – poorly.
But the bullpen has made up for any shortcomings in the rotation. Four relievers have ERAs under 3.00, including Renyel Pinto, who sports a squeaky-clean 0.73 mark.
At the plate, this team has exhibited power and speed. Hanley Ramirez leads the way. He’s the kind of player Jose Reyes should be right now. Although, maybe now that he’s signed a huge contract, Hanley will become a lazy popup machine like Reyes. Ramirez has thirteen steals and eight home runs. However, he is second on the club in home runs to Mike Jacobs and Dan Uggla. Wait, Mike Jacobs and Dan Uggla? Mets fans know that Jacobs is capable of hitting the ball out of the park, as long as he lays of the high fastballs. And yes, Uggla has talent, but he’s on pace for 41 homers. Really? And Jeremy Hermida is finally becoming the player the Marlins thought he would be from the beginning.
So, back to the original question. Are they for real? Previous track records indicate that Hendrickson, Jacobs, and Uggla can’t keep it up all year, and Kevin Gregg still has to prove that he can be a major league closer two years in a row (anyone remember Mel Rojas? I didn’t think so).
It’s a nice start, and they’ll probably finish third or fourth at worst, but the Marlins don’t have enough depth in their starting rotation or their lineup to stay in first all year. The Mets, Phils, and Braves better hope so.