Posted by Reese Kaplan at 10:00 AM
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity.” So sayeth Charles Dickens in A Tale of Two Cities, but he could just as easily be talking a Mets fan in off the ledge after the recent four-game slide. Some things shouldn’t have to be said, but they bear repeating. The baseball season is long…it’s a marathon, not a sprint. The team that’s on the field today is actually superior to the one that went to the World Series last year.
Lucas Duda is a notoriously streaky hitter, but in back-to-back seasons he put up 30 and 27 HRs respectively while not garnering a full requisite number of ABs. At one point in 2015, for example, he homered eight times over a seven game stretch. That kind of offensive prowess is most definitely there.
Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera have already had bright spots in their brief Mets careers. Both are contributing mightily already. For all of the press Daniel Murphy has gotten for his fast start with the bat, he has 5 HRs and 23 RBIs while Walker has delivered 10 and 20 respectively. Cabrera has spent most of the season hitting in the lower third of the order and after a recent slump is still hitting an impressive .281. When’s the last time a Mets shortstop hit that well? Oh yeah, some guy NOT playing for the Colorado Rockies…
David Wright’s moments are mostly in his Shea Stadium glory days but he’s carried the team on his back more than once (no pun intended). His contributions are very much up in the air but then they were last season, too, after missing most of it due to spinal stenosis.
Michael Conforto is picking right up where he left off in his rookie campaign with 5 HRs, 20 RBIs and a .282 batting average. Projections of for 20+ HRs and 80+ RBIs are not out of the question for his first full season.
A lot of people felt there was no way Yoenis Cespedes could keep up the kind of bat he showed upon acquisition for the August/September pennant chase, but all he’s done thus far is hit 12 HRs, driven in 32 and hit an identical .287. He even provided a highlight of the year moment when he delivered a game-tying 3-run pinch hit homer in late April.
Curtis Granderson has had a bit of a tough 2016 thus far but last year he was firing on all cylinders, drawing walks, hitting home runs and playing a credible outfield. His 2014 debut with the Mets was rather lackluster but he’s proven he can do it in this league. Last year he finished with 26 HRs, 11 SBs and 91 walks.
While Travis d’Arnaud is on the DL, Kevin Plawecki is getting another shot at playing regularly and quietly has been putting together his best stretch as a Met. His overall numbers don’t seem like anything impressive, but he’s gunning down runners and over his past week has hit a solid
.276 with a home run and 5 RBIs. He may not have d’Arnaud’s power but he’s showing he belongs.
Then there’s the starting pitching. Despite some lackluster offense and some suspect bullpen work, overall the Mets are still third in the majors in pitching with a team ERA of just 3.09. That number includes recent stinkers from Bartolo Colon, Logan Verrett and others who have not performed at the level expected of them. If the team finished the season with a 3.09 ERA I think everyone would be doing cartwheels.
Despite the sometimes electrifying performances of starters Noah Syndergaard, Jacob de Grom, Steven Matz (and Bartolo Colon’s big night on the mound and with the bat), perhaps the best pitching performance of the year came from new Met Antonio Bastardo who a little over a week ago against the Padres entered a game with the bases loaded and nobody out, yet got out of it. That crucial hold propelled the Mets towards the victory that temporarily gave them sole possession of first place.
I would be remiss if I didn’t give some props to one of my favorite targets for underachieving, Terry Collins. Last year he proved to me that when the team was winning he could step out of the way and let the players play without necessarily making too many stupid decisions (except, perhaps, letting Yoenis Cespedes finish his World Series AB when he could barely stand, let alone run). He doesn’t seem to respond to stressful situations well, but for the most part is letting the players do what they’re paid to do. Yes, there are always some head scratchers (like having reliever Logan Verrett start instead of starter Sean Gilmartin), but thus far this year he’s not the problem.
So, Mets fans, come in off the ledge. Things may look bleak right now, but it’s like any slump. You’re never as bad as you seem when you’re slumping and there are plenty of reasons to maintain optimism as they play this crucial series against the Washington Nationals.