Aren’t the Mets What We Thought they Were?


66-96, Fifth, No.

66-96, Fourth, No.

73-89, Fourth, No.

76-86, Fourth, No.

70-92, Fourth or Fifth, No way.

72-90, Fourth, No.

…In case you haven’t caught on yet, the above are some of the preseason predictions from the ESPN “experts” regarding what the Mets’ final record would be in 2013, what place they would finish in, and whether they’d reach the postseason.

Here at Rising Apple, all but one writer predicted between 75 and 82 victories for the 2013 Mets.  While we were a bit more optimistic than the local and national media, no one expected the team to be a serious contender.

Apr 6, 2013; New York, NY, USA; New York Mets third baseman

David Wright

(5) reacts after scoring a run during a game against the Miami Marlins at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Still, with the Mets sitting at 11-15 as they enter the first weekend in May, one of today’s Daily News headlines before Yankee shill Bill Madden’s article screamed that “the Mets are even worse than most believed.”  Really?  That headline would be understandable if the Mets were, say, 7-19.  However, they’re not.  At the moment, they are pretty much what we (we being fans and writers alike) thought they would be: a work in progress that may show some promise but will likely endure another losing season.

With the Mets at 11-15, and on pace to finish right around where most people predicted they would finish, how exactly are they “even worse than most believed?”  The answer?  They’re not.

A team is never as good as it looks when it’s on a winning streak, and never as bad as it looks when it hits a rough patch.  The Mets recently hit a rough patch that skewed their record downward.  It was disappointing, and sabotaged what had been another solid start for the team, but being 11-15 is where people thought they’d be.  It should also be pointed out that their current record and recent losing streak isn’t proof that the team will go into a crazy downward spiral.  Rather, it’s far more likely that they’ll continue to hover around the .500 mark, sometimes exciting the fans and sometimes driving them crazy.

Here’s what the Mets, as expected, are at the moment:

  • A team with poor, but not major league worst, outfield production.  Even so, Lucas Duda is getting on base at a tremendous clip and Jordany Valdespin has provided a spark at times.  It hasn’t been all bad.  Through the first few weeks of the season, despite the poor outfield production, the Mets were leading the majors in runs per game.  One of the culprits Bill Madden pointed to (unfairly, since he was nailed to the bench) was Collin Cowgill.  He was just demoted to AAA and replaced by Andrew Brown.
  • A team with a sub-par bullpen.  Still, Bobby Parnell has had a tremendous year, and Jeurys Familia has been very solid since being recalled from AAA.  Scott Rice‘s performance will be touched on below.
  • A team whose cornerstone player (David Wright) is having another very good campaign, and whose second baseman (Daniel Murphy) is playing solid defense and having a great year with the bat.
  • A team that’s had a few disappointments (Ike Davis‘ slow start, Travis d’Arnaud‘s injury), but also a few huge surprises (John Buck‘s tremendous start to the season, Scott Rice‘s emergence as a reliable lefty out of the pen).

Does it suck when your team loses six games in a row, with some of those losses coming in excruciating fashion? Absolutely.  Is that a reason to over-react and join the hyperbole infused chorus of people who are running around like chickens with their heads cut off?  Of course not.

Lots of the Mets’ early season struggles can be traced back to poor starts from Jeremy Hefner (who has since rebounded) and Aaron Laffey (who is gone).  Laffey’s inclusion in the rotation was the result of Shaun Marcum‘s absence.  Marcum has since returned, and is making his second start of the season tonight in Atlanta.  In Madden’s article, he points to how bad the starting pitching has been and determines that it’s the rotation that makes the Mets “worse than everyone expected.”  However, he refuses to note that the rotation has already improved and is bound to improve more.

Instead, Madden goes off on a tangent about how the Mets wound up having their AAA team based in Las Vegas while bashing them for it.  If he’d done his research, he would’ve known that the Blue Jays and the city of Buffalo were a perfect match, and that there was likely nothing the Mets could’ve done to prevent those two parties from uniting.

If Madden had written his article in a balanced manner, he probably would’ve made this point: While every starting pitcher aside from Matt Harvey and Jonathon Niese struggled during the first month of the season, the rotation has already been bolstered by the return of Marcum and the subtraction of Laffey.  Additionally, Dillon Gee, who was likely dealing with both rust and fatigue at the beginning of the year, has put up the following lines over his last three starts: 5.2 innings pitched, 0 runs.  6 innings pitched, 4 runs.  5 innings pitched, 4 runs.  The latter two lines aren’t impressive, but they’re fine for a pitcher who it’s been projected would likely wind up as the team’s fifth starter.

Zack Wheeler, who struggled with a mechanical issue early for AAA, has apparently corrected the glitch.  It’s likely that he’ll be called up within the next month to join the rotation.  The addition of Wheeler will mean that someone (probably Hefner) gets bumped to the bullpen to pitch in a long relief role.

The Mets (despite their recent rough patch) are indeed headed in the right direction.  This season was never about contending, though stranger things have happened.  It was about development, not wins and losses.  Specifically, it was about seeing which players would be able to contribute to the next legitimate contender (hopefully in 2014), while hoping the organization’s tremendous crop of minor league pitchers continued to excel (which they have).

There were four players who I personally wanted to see make a statement this year.  Those players were Matt Harvey, Bobby Parnell, Zack Wheeler, and Travis d’Arnaud.  It’s those four players who had to establish themselves this year as sure things.  So far, Harvey and Parnell have done so.  Wheeler is on his way.  Despite his injury, d’Arnaud was playing well in AAA early this year and should reach the majors during the second half of the season.

If any or all of those four players were failing, it would be extremely troubling.  What isn’t troubling, is a team who pretty much everyone expected to finish under .500 having a record of 11-15 on May 3rd.  Even with that record, the Mets have only one more loss than the Nationals and have one less loss than the Phillies.  Anyone care to venture a guess as to whether Madden mentioned that tidbit in his article?

Commentary from Dan Haefeli:

While nothing to write home about, I feel Jeremy Hefner deserves some credit so far this year. He has a 3.86 ERA alongside a 1.176 WHIP as a starter this season. His only bad start was the Philly game (2.52 ERA, 0.96 WHIP otherwise). He wasn’t very good against Washington, but he was pulled after 4 innings (and 65 pitches) for a pinch hitter to continue a rally, (Had Aaron Laffey not given up a three run homer, the start would probably not garner much attention).

It’s harder to cherry pick stats when there aren’t many to choose from, but so far Hefner’s given three very good starts (21 innings, 4 earned runs), one mediocre start (4 IP, 3ER), and one poor one (3 IP, 5 ER). The Mets’ 0-5 record in those games seems anomalous, and somewhat unfortunate. That said, for all the uncertainty surrounding him, Jeremy Hefner has been roughly everything the Mets could hope for. His ERA will likely hover in the 3.75-4.25 range, and he’ll probably average around 6 innings each time out. For a number five, the Mets could do a lot worse, and those numbers should be enough to let the team do the right thing with Zack Wheeler by keeping him in Vegas until he’s truly prepared for the show.

Thanks for reading! Be sure to Like Rising Apple’s Facebook page and follow @RisingAppleBlog on Twitter to keep up with the latest news, rumors, and opinion.