The Noise Distracts From How Good The Mets Have Been
It started early for the Mets. Steven Matz was injured before Opening Day, and the Mets again wondering what is really wrong with him. Seth Lugo pitched in the World Baseball Classic, partially tore his UCL, and he is going to try to rehab it rather than having Tommy John surgery. Indirectly, this led to Rafael Montero pitching like, well, Montero. It also led to a less than inspiring performance by Adam Wilk.
Noah Syndergaard is gone for an extended period of time with a torn lat. Matt Harvey has been suspended three games for failing to show up at the ballpark. Yoenis Cespedes and Lucas Duda have not played in a few weeks, and there are just rumors that they are soon to return. Travis d’Arnaud is yet again on the disabled list himself, and as usual we are unaware when he can return. Once again, Asdrubal Cabrera has been hobbled in the early part of the season leading everyone to wonder when the Mets finally put him on the disabled list.
Jeurys Familia was suspended for the first few weeks of the season, and he was not sharp immediately upon his return. Addison Reed struggled in his adaption to closer and again in his transition to the eighth inning reliever. Fernando Salas just struggled, and Josh Smoker has probably struggled more than Reed and Salas combined.
Jose Reyes was hitting .095 midway through April. Curtis Granderson entered the month hitting just .128. Neil Walker is under the Mendoza Line against right-handed pitching, and he entered the month of May hitting just .195. Wilmer Flores cannot his right-handed pitching. Juan Lagares can’t hit any pitching.
The end result was the Mets losing six in a row and 10 of 11. Already, people were starting to wonder if this team was similar to the 1992 or the 2009 Mets teams. Despite all of this, the Mets are back at .500 and second place in the National League East. How did it happen?
Well, for starters young and under utilized players have stepped up. Michael Conforto went from the bench to one of the best hitters in baseball. For the second straight season, T.J. Rivera has taken complete advantage of an unexpected opportunity being given to him. Josh Edgin has become a dominant LOOGY in the bullpen. We have even seen Paul Sewald step up pitching terrifically after some initial hiccups.
Then there are the veterans who have had career best seasons so far. Jay Bruce is on base to put up career best numbers in every offensive category. Jerry Blevins has been used almost every game, and he is putting up better numbers than he did last year’s career best season for him. Rene Rivera is hitting over .300. Hansel Robles is 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA in 16 appearances.
More than there, the Mets have exhibited some professional pride. Reyes is hitting .282/.341/.564 with three doubles, a triple, two homers, nine RBI and a stolen base over his last 10 games. Granderson has hit .250/.368/.625 with three doubles, a homer, and four RBI over his last five games. Walker has hit .276/.364/.414 with four doubles and four RBI in the month of May.
In addition, the bullpen has been much better of late. Familia has had five straight scoreless outings. Reed has allowed just two hits with no runs in the month of May. Terry Collins has been more judicious in his use of Salas, and Salas has not allowed any runs in his last five appearances. With Blevins, Edgin, and Robles continuing their outstanding seasons, this has become the dominant bullpen everyone envisioned it would be to start the year.
With the combination of the resurgent veterans and the outstanding young player, the Mets are winning again. In the month of May, the Mets lead the majors in runs scored. They are fifth in the National League in homers. However, unlike last year, the Mets do not need homers to score runs. The Mets .320 team batting average and .517 slugging with runners in scoring position is second best in the majors, and its .419 OBP with runners in scoring position is the best in baseball.
Despite all the noise around the Mets, this team is playing its best baseball of the season. Once their pitching gets relatively healthy, and their current pitchers pitch close to their true talent levels, this team will once again be one of the best teams in all of baseball. Until then, this current group of Mets will make sure the Washington Nationals will be within shouting distance allowing the Mets to compete for the division.