Apr 20, 2014; New York, NY, USA; Teammates mob New York Mets right fielder Curtis Granderson (3) after winning the game against the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field. Mets won 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Extraordinarily, Mets Still on Cusp of Turnaround

Such a title may lead you to believe this article will be full of blind, unbridled optimism. Truly it is hard to think in these terms after a 7-17 month that is still trudging on. This article is indeed optimistic, but it is not blind optimism. It has a leg, even two, to stand on.

Forget all the off-field drama, especially of the last couple days. As hard as it is to believe, the New York Mets are about to turn a corner. Unbelievably, but not inexplicably, this team truly is *this* close to contending, even this year.

May 16, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy (28) at bat against the Washington Nationals during the first inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s start by clearing the air on the offense. We knew coming into this season the Mets would struggle to put up runs. The New York bats, while dismal, were not unexpectedly so. This team was not going to win on the backs of big boppers.

If this team was going to win, it would do so on the strength of starting pitching. Fortunately, for the most part, the staff has met and even exceeded expectations. The Mets come into tonight’s game third in the National League in quality starts, sporting 34 in 50 games. Their quality start percentage of 68 ranks just below Atlanta’s 72 percent. Dillon Gee, Jonathon Niese, and Zack Wheeler have quality start rates over 70 percent, and Bartolo Colon isn’t far behind. Jacob deGrom and Rafael Montero have just one non-quality start between their 6 outings. Only one regular starter (Mejia) did not consistently give New York the chance to win, but he’s found his home in the bullpen.

Speaking of that bullpen, that supposedly wretched set of arms that has spiked up team ERA, its worst days are behind it. Gone are the geriatric trio of Jose Valverde, Kyle Farnsworth, and John Lannan. Here to stay are Jenrry Mejia, Jeurys Familia, and Carlos Torres. Vic Black is back and presumably better than ever, as is Josh Edgin. Daisuke Matsusaka has proved to be capable reliever and spot starter. When Dillon Gee comes back, one more quality, young arm (most likely deGrom) will move to the ’pen.

If it had been the arms and not the bats underperforming, there would be much cause for concern. But the pieces we expected to be in place are doing exactly what they are supposed to. The pieces that aren’t performing, while disheartening, can’t be disappointing.

So, you may ask, if things aren’t as doom and gloom as they’re made out to be, how do the Mets actually turn this corner they’re approaching? It’s really quite simple.

Apr 27, 2014; New York, NY, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Dillon Gee (35) pitches against the Miami Marlins during the first inning of a game at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

As far as pitching goes, stay the course. The rotation will continue to keep New York in the game more often than not, even if it takes Dillon Gee a bit more time to come back and if Noah Syndergaard needs more reps in the minors to get his arm to full-strength. With the dead weight in the bullpen gone, the Mets should get more consistency from their relievers. If Mejia turns out to be the closer we want him to be, the ninth inning finally becomes a lock. And lest we forget, if the wind blows just right, Matt Harvey could be back in play at full strength come September (though I think we all hope he errs on the side of patience).

As for the offense, all it needs is *one more* consistent bat. Take just one of those five double plays from Sunday afternoon away and New York wins. We aren’t asking for much. Just for one more guy to get hot and stay hot. He may come from this current lineup, he may come from the outside via a trade. But if he comes, we’re right back in it.

It seems a lot worse, but the Mets are 22-28, last place in the NL East but just six games behind the first-place Braves. If everything plays out as described above, we could still have another 1973 on our hands. Am I expecting a pennant this year? No. All I’m asking is for you to avoid throwing in the towel on 2014. There’s still some exciting baseball to be played in Flushing. And some of it, if you can believe it, will be played by the home team.

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Tags: Pennant Race Turnaround Ya Gotta Believe

  • Adam

    I think deGrom has looked the more exciting of the two that came up from AAA. I’d be reticent to take him out of the rotation.

  • Ken Meoni

    I’d say something but the Katz got my tongue.

  • Mybarkingdog

    The two worst things about the 2014 Mets are the bullpen and the hitting, especially with runners in scoring position. I agree that the bullpen should no longer be a weakness but it will take more than a new hitting coach to change things.

  • Harley Alderson

    all we have is pitching. we need hitting in order to turn it around. you are blind if you think pitching is going to win anything for us. instead of losing games 5-2 we been losing games 1-0 or 2-1 we have a weak lineup from lead off to the 9 spot. we are a lineup filled with strikeout machines we need high obp guys but we dont have a gm that knows what hes doing. most of the pitchers you mentioned are the previous regimes young arms with the exception of montero,syndergaard and wheeler.

  • Victor Chu

    Will – I appreciate your enthusiasm, but do you seriously think the Mets are “truly is *this* close to contending, even this year”? While the bullpen now has a lot of potential, it is far from a lock to NOT explode from game to game – still too many walks — especially when the starters leave with a 1 or 2 run lead — and, it’s not like Black and Meija were lights out yesterday. I do agree that the starters have performed better overall than the ERAs of Wheeler, Colon and Meija would suggest. I was also looking at the aggregate quality starts by the staff so far this season … and, with some more timely hitting and better defense (especially the mental brand), you’re correct that the Mets would be right up there in wins with Atlanta or would at least be squarely in the wild card hunt this early 1/3 of the season. But, therein lies the problem — timely hitting — while the Mets got away with their measly offense in April, May has not been so kind. In fact, that weakness has been notably exposed. I would argue that the only hitters playing anywhere near up to their (historic) offensive potential is Murphy and Lagares (with Lagares being the only “consistent” clutch hitter so far). The stars have not aligned for Granderson, Chris Young, d’Arnaud, Duda, and even Wright. David is trying so hard not to press (i.e., to hit for power), that he IS pressing. Sure, the singles are coming, but while he is a team leader, he cannot offensively carry this team. While David is a star, despite what Freddy W said, he’s just not that kind of player … he needs help … just see David’s numbers in 2005-2008 with the potent lineups around him during those years. For the Mets to win, Granderson, Chris Young, d’Arnaud, and Duda ALL need to step it up … they are the keys to a successful season for the Mets … and, for all the other pundits out there, Stephen Drew, while he would have been helpful, was not the answer to a wild card or 90 win season.