There’s an old saying in baseball that the team in first place on the 4th of July will win the pennant. Clearly that saying goes way back, before divisional play, and well before the wild card concept was introduced into the sport. However the point is that by the 4th of July, the season has taken shape, and there’s enough of a sample size to perform some assessments of teams and players. To that end, let’s take a look at the Mets by position, and grade them through 85 games.
Starting Pitching: The Mets’ starters’ ERA has been hovering around 3.80 for a while. The starting pitching has been keeping them in games, with Jonathon Niese leading the way (5-4, 2.88), followed by Bartolo Colon (8-6, 3.88). Zack Wheeler has shown flashes of brilliance (CG shutout against Miami on 6/19), but has been inconsistent. Jacob deGrom has been up and down, as a young starter is expected to be, and Daisuke Matsuzaka has provided a workman-like effort (3-3, 3.72). Rafael Montero struggled in 4 starts, and was sent back to Triple-A.
Relief Pitching: The bullpen ERA has shrunk to 3.20. The Mets have found a late-game solution, with Jeurys Familia and Jenrry Mejia, Both right-handers throw hard, and have been effective in save situations. Carlos Torres is a steady and effective long-reliever. Josh Edgin and Dana Eveland give the Mets two left-handed options, a much-improved situation than the overuse of Scott Rice. Gonzalez Germen provides a swing-type option, as he can go multiple innings, or come in to get a key out.
Catching: Mets catchers have hit .202, with 7 home runs and 24 RBI. Their OBP is .268. Travis d’Arnaud has looked better since returning from Triple-A. However, the Mets will need significantly better production from their catchers if they are to turn things around.
First Base: After starting the season with 3 first basemen, the Mets traded Ike Davis to Pittsburgh in mid-April. Lucas Duda has a triple slash of .248/.339/.460 with 12 home runs and 30 RBI. Eric Campbell spells Duda against some left-handed pitching, and has done well (.319/.347/.429). Defense has been serviceable by both Duda and Campbell.
Second Base: Daniel Murphy has been, well, Daniel Murphy. He’s a born hitter, and is hitting .300 with a .351 OBP and a .451 slugging percentage. Murphy also has 7 home runs. However, his defense remains suspect, and he is prone to mental lapses on the bases, negating some of his offensive contributions.
Shortstop: Ruben Tejada has received the lion’s share of the playing time, and is triple slashing at .238/.351/.299. He has been relatively hot of late, and had an OBP over .400 in June. His defense, while not spectacular, has improved to the point of consistency with an occasional exceptional play. While many point to Tejada’s improvement over 2013, the fact remains that even with this improvement, he is at best average for the position. His numbers are modest, and he provides neither power nor speed to the lineup. Wilmer Flores hit .225 with 1 home run in limited playing time for a stretch in May and June.
Third Base: David Wright has been streaky. Before his injury on June 27th, Wright was hitting .277 with 6 home runs and 41 RBI. His defense has been very good, and Wright continues to be the face of the franchise during tough times. If Wright’s value to the Mets is ever questioned, witness the games the team plays when he is not in the lineup.
Outfield: First, the positives. Curtis Granderson, after a rough April, has righted his ship, and is hitting .232 with 12 home runs and 39 RBI. Granderson also plays solid defense in all 3 outfield positions. Eric Young, Jr., while hitting only .242 with a .327 OBP, has stolen 22 bases, and provides a needed spark when he’s in the lineup. Juan Lagares continues to sparkle defensively, and is becoming a productive hitter. Bobby Abreu is hitting .274 with a .355 OBP, and has played more outfield than he should. Now, here’s the other side of the coin. Chris Young is triple slashing .199/.276/.343. He has 7 home runs and 23 RBI. Young’s defense has been sub-par, and his playing time has recently diminished. Kirk Nieuwenhuis provides a solid option against right-handed pitching, as well as a left-handed power bat off the bench.
Manager: Terry Collins has limited talent on his roster. While this provides some rationale for the team’s 37-48 record, Collins has made some strange in-game moves, especially with his bullpen. I stick by the point I’ve made for years regarding Collins; it’s hard to truly assess him with the roster he has. However, it’s also fair to wonder if he’s the manager to lead the Mets into contention.
How would you grade the Mets now that we’ve reached Independence Day?