Jul 26, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; New York Mets pitcher Jenrry Mejia (58) throws a pitch in the second inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Rising Apple Weighs In: Thoughts on July

At the end of each month, the Rising Apple staff will look back and weigh in. Here are our thoughts on July, during which the Mets had a record of 15-12…

Danny Abriano, Editor:

The Mets began to show some fight at the end of May.  In July, it finally translated into a winning month.  By going 15-12, the Mets secured their first above .500 month of the season.  Nothing to boast about, but much better than what appeared to be their fate early in the season (slipping completely into the abyss).

The middle of the month saw the Mets host the All-Star Game, but the beginning and end saw them play an exciting, spunky brand of baseball that hasn’t been on display for quite some time.  The acquisition of Eric Young, Jr. and his contribution at the plate and on the bases was enormous.  Rookie starting pitcher Zack Wheeler began to come into his own and had two brilliant outings that gave the club a glimpse of his enormous potential, and Daniel Murphy emerged from the doldrums to bolster the effectiveness of the starting lineup.  The most surprising story, though, was the return and first start domination from Jenrry Mejia.  The 23 year old was misused in 2010, missed the majority of 2011 after undergoing Tommy John surgery, and is just now getting back to form.  If Mejia, who was once the top pitching prospect in the organization, is back to being himself, the Mets could have a scary good rotation by the middle of 2014.

More than any single player or performance, though, the Mets’ July was defined by the team’s tenacity.  It helped that the bullpen was much improved and that Jeremy Hefner was stellar for the majority of the month, but July really felt like a potential turning point for the club.

Wins and losses in non Playoff years are largely moot, but I do believe it can help a team’s psyche if a winning culture is developed in the year before they’re expected to truly contend.  With that said, I would’ve been thrilled if the Mets were able to obtain a solid prospect in exchange for Marlon Byrd, but the offers just weren’t there.

Heading into August and the last 60 or so games of the season, the focus should be on Harvey, Wheeler, Mejia, and the expected big league debut of highly touted catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud.  The Mets have been rebuilding for going on four years, but it’s finally starting to feel like more of a transition to bigger and better things.

Michael Lecolant, Senior Staff Writer:

Give the Mets their due, for they are playing well.  I knew heading into the season the starting rotation from April would look considerably different in the second half.  And it does.  It would be nice if Jon Niese were a part of it, but once again, he’ll be fighting an uphill battle when he returns.  With Zack Wheeler’s most recent start in Miami, the Mets have now taken five potential no-hitters into the sixth inning this season, including two by Matt Harvey, and one authored by Dillon Gee.  The starting rotation is solid, and stands to get considerably better heading into next season with additional minor league reinforcements.  I’m confident the bullpen will benefit from a trickle down effect as well.  As an example, Carlos Torres has gotten shelled of late, but did brilliant work in the bullpen.  Gonzalez German has also been a fine addition.  Otherwise, Bobby Parnell is having his best season as the Mets closer.

For the moment, acquiring Eric Young in June for Collin McHugh stands as Sandy Alderson’s big trade.  It was a good trade. I will grant the GM that.  But in a broad sense, I’m a little disappointed there wasn’t a trade of greater impact to be made this month insofar as acquiring an outfielder.  In center field, I was very pleased to hear Terry Collins announce Juan Lagares would be getting consistent playing time.  In right field, I never bought into the notion Marlon Byrd was a viable trade chip. I’m not particularly at peace with this right field situation either.  Considering his offensive production, I’d know I’d be hard pressed to convince anyone to bench him.  But since I do not view him as an integral component of the Mets future, I’d still rather see one of our in-house guys get a chance to play once the deadline passes.

Lucas Duda did himself no favors by getting hurt.  It seemed as if he was getting really comfortable at the plate at the time of his injury.  With Eric Young in left, what does Lucas still have working for him?  The answer continues to be Ike Davis.  In plain-speak, Ike is still struggling terribly.  He is batting .232 since returning on July 5th, but his season average is still below the Mendoza Line.  He has one home run in July with only eight runs batted in.  There are just two months left in the season, and Ike is now in a bind.  If he keeps this up, more and more, he invites the possibility of getting non-tendered next year. Josh Satin has been a good little story.  He’s been quite effective during his call up, but he is by no means an answer at first. The Mets seemingly have a growing conundrum on their hands.  I would like to see the Mets recall Ruben Tejada.  I’m looking forward to finally seeing Travis d’Arnaud in a Mets uniform and behind the plate.  And I believe the Mets can have a strong final two months, and become a .500 team again.  Let youth be served.

Sam Maxwell, Staff Writer:

We are extremely excited about the winning record the Mets have been sporting since “Super Tuesday,” when Zack Wheeler debuted and both he and Matt Harvey picked up wins on the day.

Well, they have been playing great, but it still needs to translate to more wins.

Clearly, I should not be picky. This team is an exciting team to watch in its current state, though even more frustrating than ever before with their habits of not only not scoring for Matt Harvey, but doing so in hair-pulling LOB fashion. It’s cute to go on these 3 game winning streaks before losing 2 in a row, but it’s time for a serious winning streak. We might not make the playoffs, but I am looking for more of a push from this roster, even if we’ll all be mostly satisfied if they keep up the work they’ve been doing.

There are a lot of people playing for jobs, including the manager. This is the most important 2 months to come along for the Mets franchise in a long time. Keep playing good ball, have a clearer outlook on certain positions and figure out what the managing situation is.
And make the playoffs. Why the &*%& not?
Kevin Baez, Staff Writer:
Although there isn’t much to be impressed with an overall record of 15-12 for the month of July, there were definitely some positives, with as many negatives as well. First and foremost, while I never expected the Mets to contend this season, it’s really nice to see the Harvey and Wheeler develop at the Major League level. While Harvey has continued to make a name for himself throughout the entire league, it’s beyond frustrating to see the Mets’ offense provide Harvey with minimal run support. Despite pitching to a very impressive 2.57 ERA for the month of July, Harvey only has one win attached to his record. Zach Wheeler has been a nice addition to the Mets’ rotation, as he compiled a 3-0 record with a 2.73 ERA for the month.
While we have seen how Wheeler has the potential to dominate on the mound, improving his control while throwing to both sides of the plate consistently is an area he can improve upon. However, let’s not forget Wheeler is only 23 years old. Aside from the rotation, I am looking forward to seeing Travis d’Arnaud get called up, as reports suggests he could possibly get the call to the Majors later this week. With that being said, what I am most looking forward to has to do with the Mets’ offseason and what Sandy Alderson will do to further enhance this team into contention with a significant amount of payroll coming off the books at season’s end. Another question that remains to be seen is who will be managing this franchise moving forward. Right now, i’m not sold Terry Collins will be the manager after this current season, but I could be wrong.

Will DeBoer, Staff Writer:

After going 15-12 in July to improve to 48-57, it may sound rather silly to consider the Mets as being “there” yet. But I can’t help but wonder: are the Mets there? And if not, are they really that far off?

The outfield, which was in shambles through Memorial Day, all of a sudden seems positively placid. Eric Young continues to be a revelation and is making his case as left fielder (or second baseman?) of the future. Juan Lagares broke the platoon and won the everyday center field job by raising his batting average to a respectable .270. Marlon Byrd leads the team in power categories and has the potential to produce for another couple years in right field. Remember when the Mets had six Quad-A outfielders? Now they’ve got three major league ones. What an improvement!

The rest of the team is in good condition, as well: streaky Daniel Murphy and John Buck are both on upswings, David Wright is his usual self, Travis d’Arnaud is a month away from the bigs. And then there’s the rotation, which evermore seems to ooze potential to one day challenge Seaver-Koosman-Matlack and Gooden-Darling-Ojeda-Fernandez as the greatest in franchise history. Can you imagine putting out Matt Harvey-Zack Wheeler-Jonathon Niese-Jenrry Mejia (and then eventually Noah Syndergaard or Rafael Montero) every week for the next decade? New York’s starting pitching has the potential to be scary good, and the Mets are one more power bat away from having the offense to back them all (and if Ike Davis ever gets back on track he’ll be the guy).

Fans may be disappointed at Sandy Alderson’s lack of action during this year’s lackluster trade deadline, but I think it was the right move. No one was biting for fish that can help the team both now and in the future (Byrd, Bobby Parnell). Once the bad money comes off the books at the end of the season, Sandy will be able to complete the project in time for a grand opening in 2014. Until then, Mets fans should be excited to see the preview the team has to offer. (And hey, with the Nats and Phils struggling, we could see them take second in the NL East this year – better than fourth, right?)

Rich Sparago, Staff Writer:

Going into the July 31st game, the Mets were 15-11 for the month. To take that a step further, they were 7 games over .500 since June 15th. They’ve been playing very solid baseball for the past 7 weeks, and it has been fun to watch. The primary reason for the improved play has been the starting pitching. Matt Harvey has been, well, Matt Harvey. Zack Wheeler has shown more consistency. Dillon Gee and Carlos Torres (most recent starts notwithstanding) have been effective as well. After solid starts against Milwaukee and Pittsburgh, Jeremy Hefner has struggled. However, his struggles have been recently offset by the work of Jenrry Mejia as part of a six-man rotation. The Mets have made their plan clear: contending teams in the future will be built upon solid starting pitching. We’re seeing the plan come together, and the results are starting to come. 

July 31st was the trading deadline. The deadline came and went with no activity from the Mets, and that is just fine. I think Sandy Alderson played it exactly the right away. He had a few assets that may have been of interest to other teams (Byrd, Buck, Hawkins), but because the offers were not adequate, Alderson held onto his players. Unless the package coming back would contain prospects that had a reasonable chance of helping the team in the future, it makes more sense to hold onto the veterans. The young players could benefit from their leadership, and it is important to win games, even in a rebuilding process. If you don’t think so, ask yourself how much more pleasant it has been to watch Mets’ baseball lately. Notice the demeanor of the players, and the interviews when they talk about how much they want to be a part of the better times to come. Winning matters.

Finally, July was a month that saw the All Star Game played in Queens for just the second time. The Mets handled it very well, very professionally. Citi Field was on display for the world to see, and it glistened. The 2013 All Star Game was the appetizer, the “tease” for what is to come at Citi Field. That would be exciting baseball, played before a full house of enthusiastic fans. We have to be a little more patient. But if you see what is happening on the field now, you realize that the wait should not be too long.

Dan Haefeli, Staff Writer:

Though a 15-12 record isn’t exactly spectacular, the Mets’ month of July represents a breath of fresh air to fans starved for success. The Mets’ 3.22 ERA was good for 5th in the National League, highlighted by a fantastic 2.12 mark from their bullpen. The offense was very good as well. Non-pitchers on the Mets hit .274/.353/.415, ranking 3rd in the majors in wRC+ and first in fWAR. Though the playoffs are likely a pipe dream, it’s not out of the question for this team, once mired at 15 games under .500 in May, to finish with a better record than 2012′s 74-88 squad.

Surprise leaders of the offensive campaign are Juan Lagares, and his statement-making .353/.408/.529 mark alongside fantastic center field defense and Ike Davis, hitting a solid-if-unspectacular .242/.382/.355. Davis, like many others, has been on a tear so far in the second half though, and his .278/.409/.472 line so far is fantastic. Daniel Murphy and the still-Met Marlon Byrd have both been hot at the plate, with 174 and 170 wRC+ marks, respectively.

The last two months of this season are about more than respectability, but about the future as well. Can Lagares and Eric Young, Jr. be parts of a contending outfield? Can Ike Davis play first base for this ballclub? When will young Ruben Tejada be back, and what can he be expected to contribute in the future? What will Travis d’Arnaud contribute this year? The early returns have been generally positive, but Sandy Alderson’s ability to answer this questions confidently will go a long way in determining his offseason strategy and, hopefully, how soon the Mets can compete and contend in the National League. In the meantime, the Mets are fun and we shouldn’t take that for granted.

Andrew Battifarano, Staff Writer:

With the Mets on an upswing ever since a Father’s Day walkoff homer, it seems every aspect of the team has started to click together.  With the way the team produced, there appears to be a very bright future for this club.

To start off, much credit has to be given to the man who sets the table for the lineup. Eric Young, Jr. has been an incredible asset to the team, and has contributed not only with his spark at the top of the order, but an upgraded defense in left field. While his hitting at the top of the lineup has declined recently, his speed and knack for getting on base to start rallies has been so vital. Since the departure of Jose Reyes, there hasn’t been someone to fill the void of the top spot of the order. Young has filled it; at least for now.

It hasn’t just been Young that has been a great contributor to the new look team, but the two men who play to his left have been stellar as well. Juan Lagares and Marlon Byrd have contributed more than anyone can imagine.

Lagares obviously is known for his great defense and speed. He is among the league leaders in the defensive runs saved category. Day after day his defense continues to amaze everyone. He defense has clearly helped the team, but his offense is what has allowed him to be part of the every day lineup. His seven for ten stretch against the Phillies earned him a much deserved National League Player of the Week Award. Although he doesn’t walk very much, he does hit and if he continues to do so, deserves to play every day.

Byrd coming into Spring Training appeared to be one of those fringe players that may have a shot to play in a platoon situation. His last few weeks have shown that he is far better than a platoon player. He now leads the team in home runs, RBI and slugging percentage. Coming off a terrible 2012 campaign, Byrd should get honored with the Comeback Player of the Year Award if he continues his play. All three outfielders have made the Mets’ outfield much improved in all phases of the game.

It hasn’t been just the offense, but the team pitching has been incredible over the latest stretch. Even though the Mets lost Shaun Marcum and moved to a six man rotation, it seems almost every day the pitching gets it done. Harvey has been an ace, Wheeler has flashed brilliancy and flirted with a no hitter, and Gee, Torres, Hefner and even Jenrry Mejia have all played integral roles in the staff.

The bullpen has been fantastic as well, with Josh Edgin, LaTroy Hawkins, David Aardsma, Scott Rice and Bobby Parnell have all been great in a multitude of situations. A bullpen that was awful early in the year, looks completely different.

Moving forward this team has tons of promise. With Travis D’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard among others waiting in the wings, this team is headed in the right direction. This month of July has been a pleasure to watch and very exciting.

Shannon Finkel, Staff Writer:

In recent history, it’s been expected that the Mets will begin the second half of the season playing sub-par baseball. However, that wasn’t the case in July. Since the All-Star Break, they have played .500 baseball, a huge improvement from last year when they went 2-12 in their first 14 games back.

The Mets have also had their fair share of tough losses this month, including an extra-inning walk-off loss to the Nationals on the 26th that wasted a Matt Harvey gem. Overall, though, I have been pleasantly surprised with the team’s playing, particularly their capability of bouncing back after these tough losses. For instance, after losing a 13-8 game to the Phillies in the opening game of the series, the Mets went on to shut Philadelphia down in the next two games, winning the series.

Mets pitching has been strong this month, with Dillon Gee and Zack Wheeler both taking no-hitters late into games. Former top prospect Jenrry Mejia pitched a gem in his first start of the season, while ace Matt Harvey continued his dominance.

There have also been a few impact position players over the month who have been key to the Mets’ 15-12 record in July.

Juan Lagares has been on fire with the bat, hitting .353/.408/.529 and boasting 13 RBI in 22 games. On top of that, his defensive skills have been just as thrilling to watch as his hitting. Terry Collins recently stated that he has earned the opportunity to play every day; however, it will be interesting to see what happens with the outfield when Lucas Duda comes back. I can see Duda getting some playing time at first base to continue giving Lagares and Young playing time.

Marlon Byrd, who was not traded at the deadline despite the rumors, also had a noteworthy July. His five home runs led the team and his 20 RBI tied Daniel Murphy and San Diego’s Carlos Quentin for third most in the NL for the month. I hoped Sandy would be able to work his magic when it came to finding a team for Byrd, but I’m excited to see how he progresses in the final two months of the season. If he finishes the year at his current rate, I don’t see why Sandy wouldn’t try to sign him as a potential fourth outfielder for next year.

Eric Young Jr. has brought to the Mets a true leadoff hitter and speed that has been missing since Jose Reyes departed two years ago. Although we saw his average diminish a bit this month, his 13 stolen bases in July led all of baseball. Young simply makes plays happen, whether through his hustle in the outfield or his capability of creating runs while on base.

After being recalled from Las Vegas in the end of May to replace an injured Ruben Tejada, Omar Quintanilla has provided the Mets with great defense at the shortstop position. However, he has been abysmal with the bat lately, hitting a mere .218 in July. Collins recently suggested Tejada might not return until the rosters expand in September, but I hope this is not actually the case. Although I am probably in the minority, I think there is little reason why Quintanilla should stay in the majors if he doesn’t get his bat going. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that Tejada has showed signs of re-discovering his swing while playing in AAA.

The Mets are currently using a six-man rotation, with Jon Niese set to join the team in mid-August. When he returns, I would like to see Carlos Torres shift to the long relief role. I also hope that Jeremy Hefner’s excellent first few months of the season were not a fluke — he struggled mightily in his past few starts, but if the Mets want to play spoiler for contending teams in 2013, they’ll need to see good pitching from Hefner and the staff.

Remember, the Mets were one Jason Heyward catch away from winning the series against the first place Braves last week. If they can keep grinding out wins as they have been recently, August and September should be a fun few months for Mets fans.

 

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