Their closer is out for the season. Their starting center fielder has only played 13 games. Their big free agent signing is batting .129. Their best starting pitcher might not play this season at all. The New York Mets have had all of the makings of a disastrous April, except for one thing: they have been winning. Prior to the start of play Tuesday, the Mets were second in their division at 14-11 and were holding down the second wild card spot.
What is great about the Mets’ start from their fans perspective is that things are good, and should be improving. Winning without the contribution of some big names like Curtis Granderson could actually be a positive for the team going forward. When Granderson inevitably breaks out of his slump, the team can move forward knowing that they can win games no matter what. In fact, they have not only been winning without Granderson’s bat, but without any hot bats. The team’s batting average and OPS are the second worst in baseball, while their slugging percentage is dead last.
Thankfully for the team, their best hitter during the first two weeks of the year, outfielder Juan Lagares, is due back soon. He has begun a rehab assignment at Triple-A Las Vegas, after playing in extended spring training. Lagares could be back with the big league club as soon as May 1. The team could also see a boost come June or July from top prospect Noah Syndergaard, who appears to be ready for the big leagues.
Without their offense clicking, how the Mets have been winning games is equal parts pitching, defense, and sorcery. Their starting pitchers’ ERA is the ninth best in the big leagues, and as a team they have had four shutouts. Their bullpen, expected to be roughly as good as a pitching machine at getting outs, has been respectable. They have played solid defense, with the fourth best fielding percentage in MLB. The Mets have also had their fair share of timely hitting, which can be either luck or clutch timing, depending on one’s perspective.
Another aspect of the team that has been a big help to their success thus far is that they have allowed the fewest stolen bases in baseball, while taking the fourth most bags themselves. Their 24 steals, which come with an 80 percent success rate, have been vital to a team with so little power. Eric Young, one of the best in baseball, is 12/13 on stolen base attempts this year. The Mets’ speed has also saved them outs on the bases. They have the fourth fewest double plays hit into this season, although that can partly be explained by their lack of getting on base so far.
The Mets are a team that has power potential, it just has not surfaced quite yet. Once that comes, they should be in excellent shape going forward. David Wright, Dan Murphy, and Granderson will surely come around. The return of Lagares will fix one glaring hole, although they could really, really use a better solution at shortstop both this season and going forward.
On Tuesday the Mets begin a short two game series at the Philadelphia Phillies, before traveling to Colorado for four games with the Colorado Rockies. Perhaps playing in Colorado’s Coors Field will get the team bats jump-started, but fans should be happy as long as the team keeps winning, by whatever means they can.
Commentary by Brian Moore
Guardian Liberty Voice Sports Writer covering New York Baseball