While most people are saying that the Mets are on the cusp on competing as the 2015 season looms in on the horizon, I got to thinking it would be a good time to look back at what kind of team Sandy Alderson inherited and what progress he’s made since taking over the reins from Omar Minaya.
The first thing that surprised me in retrospect was how very good the pitching staff was during that season. The rotation featured two starters with sub 3.00 ERAs. R.A. Dickey finished with a sterling 2.84 ERA and in one of his rare relatively healthy seasons as a Met Johan Santana earned his paycheck with a 2.98. The odd-year/even-year phenom, Mike Pelfrey, delivered a solid 3.66 ERA to accompany a 15-9 record. Rookie Jon Niese was just below a .500 record at 9-10 but could hold his head high with a better-than-league-average 4.20 ERA during his first season as a starter. The 5th starter’s role was something of a crap shoot with 7 pitchers getting opportunities to start. Two ignominious blasts from the past had the most chances – John Maine and Oliver Perez – followed by AAAA journeyman Pat Misch and another rookie who turned in a sterling 2.18 in 5 starts – Dillon Gee.
The bullpen was perhaps even stronger headed up by anger management poster child Francisco Rodriguez who saved 25 games which seems almost unfathomable given his average of well over a strikeout per inning, his miniscule WHIP and his 2.20 ERA. I see he finished 46 games but apparently didn’t get the save or win in 17 of them. Apparently the lack of timely hitting that continues to plague the team was in full swing back then, too.
Supporting his efforts were a cast of no-names who delivered some fine quality efforts including the ageless Elmer Dessens with a 2.30 ERA, flamethrower Manny Acosta with a 2.95, perpetual Pedro Feliciano with a 3.30 and the little appreciated Hisanori Takahashi with a 3.61 split between the pen and the rotation.
If you look at the numbers you could make a case that the 2010 staff actually was better than the one that finished in 2014.
Last year the Mets featured Bartolo Colon, Jacob de Grom, Zack Wheeler, Jon Niese and Dillon Gee for the majority of the games. Their ending numbers were good but not quite up to the 2010 level. The big man delivered a 4.09 ERA followed by Dillon Gee’s 4.00. Then came Zack Wheeler’s 3.54, Jon Niese’s 3.40 and Jacob de Grom’s ROY-winning 2.69.
After several years of throwing gasoline on the fire, the 2014 cast in the bullpen was nothing short of spectacular. The ending numbers included closer Jenrry Mejia’s 28 saves and a 3.65 ERA (though inflated somewhat by his early ineffective stint as a starter), swingman Carlos Torres at 3.06, Vic Black at 2.60, big man Jeurys Familia with a stellar 2.21 and lost somewhat in the accolades given to the righties, southpaw Josh Edgin with a 1.32 ERA in his role as a LOOGY.
The offense back in 2010 included rookie Ike Davis with 17 HRs at 1B, former All Star Luis Castillo delivering the worst season of his career with a paltry .235 average and just 8 SBs, All Star Jose Reyes manning shortstop showing off his power, speed and a .282 batting average, David Wright looking like the star he once was with a .283/29/103 and 19 SBs, an outfield featuring the perpetually struggling Jason Bay, the best season of his career out of Angel Pagan in CF and RF split between the injured Carlos Beltran and newly acquired Jeff Francoeur. Rod Barajas contributed 12 HRs and very little else behind the dish.
You had a ROY type season at 1B, All Star worthy contributions on the left side of the infield, a very solid CF and better than average production in the combined Francoeur/Beltran combo in RF. The only true black hole in the offense was LF.
2014’s team had Lucas Duda besting that HR total with 30 dingers. Daniel Murphy gained an All-Star berth by virtue of the rule that every team must be represented, but he turned in a solid year with a .289 average that included 37 doubles. Shortstop has remained a black hole for the Mets ever since Alderson let Jose Reyes walk away for nothing. David Wright had an injury hobbled season that resulted in Jason Bay-like numbers. Left field was the kind of black hole centerfield had become after Alderson dealt away Angel Pagan. CF was a joy to watch when the Mets were on the field and perhaps to the surprise of everyone gold glover Juan Lagares batted .289 while showing off some base running skills after being asked to hit leadoff. Curtis Granderson ran hot and cold but ultimately finished with numbers far below what was expected given his paycheck and history. Travis d’Arnaud was a tale of two seasons – pre-demotion and post-return. The former was Thole-like but the latter looked like the guy who was the centerpiece of a trade for a Cy Young Award winner.
So you had three black holes in the 2014 lineup at SS, 3B and LF, inconsistency in RF and at C, but solid contributions from the right side of the infield. Lagares’ .289 was fairly empty but when you field and throw the way he does, no one is complaining as he held his own with the bat.
Now with more pitching in the pipeline and some of the younger players probably slated to improve, you have to be optimistic about how Alderson has crafted the rotation. He stumbled into rather than crafted the bullpen, but hey, it works, so I’ll give him credit for not trading away some of the people who are now succeeding here.
The offense is another story. Duda needs to show he can repeat what he did. The club needs to decide if Murphy, Wilmer Flores or Dilson Herrera is the keystone crusader for the future. I’m not going to go down the path of what they should do or should not do at shortstop other than to say had they kept Jose Reyes we wouldn’t be having this discussion at all. David Wright has to regain both his health and his confidence. Curtis Granderson has to improve upon his lackluster first season. Juan Lagares has to keep doing what he does and Michael Cuddyer, well, has to stay on the field. Travis d’Arnaud needs to heal and improve his throwing DRAMATICALLY or he’d better watch some Mike Piazza game films to up his hitting to that level in order to justify how bad he was this season when it came to throwing out runners.
Sandy Alderson does deserve credit for building a low-cost pitching staff that should be the envy of all of baseball, particularly if he can get someone to take on the larger contracts of Colon, Niese or Gee. However, someone better hold his feet to the fire about an offensive team that’s not progressed nearly as far. Sometimes I feel that watching the Mets is a lot like Rex Ryan and the Jets…they get how to do one side of the game but seem totally clueless about the other. I know I’m pretty sick and tired of feeling when the team is down by 3 runs at any point then the game is pretty much over. I’d really like to see the Mets put as much effort into the offense as they have the pitching. Until they do they might hit the wildcard but division titles and the World Series are not in their future.