Reese Kaplan -- What to Look For in June

I used to have a teacher who would ask the hypothetical question, “Would you want to cross a raging river on foot that was on average 18 inches deep?”  His point, of course, about averages is that they are the result of putting together in aggregate the extremes of very good and very bad performances.  This thought occurred to me while looking at how the Mets season has unfolded thus far and to reflect a bit that as Memorial Day Weekend approaches the team is actually 24-18, a .571 winning percentage.  Extrapolated across a full season, that would amount to 92 wins – surely playoff-worthy and possibly even enough to challenge for the division title.

Why then is everyone pushing the panic button about hitting, defense, bullpen meltdowns and other issues as if this team was a .469 team as they have been during the previous four years?  Despite the raft of injuries to starters, injuries to backups of the starters and slow starts by a number of hitters, the team is actually sporting the best 2nd place record in the league and only a half-game behind the division leading Washington Nationals.

Come June there should be some changes afoot that could have a positive impact on the team’s performance which should, theoretically, result in even better results.

Kudos to Kevin Plawecki for not being intimidated by his emergency call-up to the big leagues, but I’m sorry to say his .224 hitting with just a single homer falls far short of the fine start power hitting Travis d’Arnaud was delivering at the catching position.  He’s back to swinging a bat and within a few weeks should return to his middle-of-the-order batting position to help bolster the team’s often anemic offense.

The myriad of substitutes brought in to play for David Wright have performed even worse.  Eric Campbell, Dilson Herrera and occasional attempts by Ruben Tejada have stalled in the low .220s as well.  Herrera was showing a little bit of pop before his broken finger but Eric Campbell has not been able to sustain his hot AAA hitting at the big league level, and Ruben Tejada finds himself once again below the Mendoza line.  David Wright’s return, even if not to superstar levels, at least provides some presence in the lineup other teams must respect.

Some of the slow starters who have heated up a bit of late include Daniel Murphy, Curtis Granderson and Michael Cuddyer.  If they can build on their recent success, that would bode well for overall offensive improvement in the team as well.  Add in the surprising team leader in home runs, Wilmer Flores, and the much improved (though until recently powerless) Lucas Duda, and there is definitely reason to believe some more runs should be scored.

Perhaps the biggest blow that hit this team was the surprisingly effective Jerry Blevins who was perfect through his first 7 games in a Mets uniform before that batted ball broke his forearm.  As a true lefty specialist, he was able to give the Mets what they missed when Josh Edgin went down with Tommy John Surgery.  He hadn’t surrendered a hit or a walk in any of those games.

The bullpen admittedly stumbled a bit when people were thrust into unfamiliar roles.  Alex Torres who has always had reverse platoon splits had been terrific in low pressure situations but faltered when put into high pressure scenarios.  He seems, however, to have weathered that storm and settled into whatever role Terry Collins has in store for him.

Surprisingly emergency call-ups Erik Goeddel and Hansel Robles have flashed some good stuff after having been converted from starters to relievers.  Goeddel, in fact, is striking out a batter per IP while Robles is doing even better.  Even Jack Leathersich has not yielded a run through his first six games in the majors.  The only person still healthy and doing somewhat worse than in the past is Carlos Torres.  He had always been the long man but called upon recently to take some of the 8th inning duties.  As Collins gets more comfortable with others in the pen, Carlos has been able to slide back into the more familiar middle inning role where he’s excelled.  The once forgotten Sean Gilmartin has gotten more time on the mound of late and he’s doing well, too.  He’s a little wild but is holding batters to a .213 AVG and pitching to a 2.13 ERA.

Sometime (perhaps in June) there will be the returns of Jerry Blevins, Vic Black and Bobby Parnell, with a July return scheduled for Jenrry Mejia.  The pen should get even better.

Now the starting rotation has also suffered some of those extreme ups and downs but the only one who seems to be somewhat of a concern right now is Jon Niese.  Opposing hitters are teeing off to a .296 BAA and he’s only struck out 28 batters in over 48 IP.  Perhaps the way to solve the Dillon Gee dilemma as he returns from the DL is to let him flip-flip with NIese, letting Jon has his annual break on the DL a bit early this year to see what’s troubling his shoulder.

When Collins had the horses in April he sprinted out to a division lead.  Then came the losing streak, the invisible bats, some bullpen implosions and some regression from the starters.  Once he gets his full team whole again in June there’s no reason to believe the team can’t do better than they are showing right now which, to remind you once again, is on a pace to win 92 games.


Mack Ade said...

The outcome in games in June should be better since the schedule is easier

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