The sun just got a little brighter for the Mets as they won consecutive road games for the first time this season and their first road series. Granted, the wins are coming against the Baltimore Orioles who are owners of the worst record in baseball, but these are the games that the Mets must win if they are to call themselves contenders. The upcoming Cleveland series could be categorized in a similar fashion as must win games. The Indians are not playing the same underwhelming baseball as the Orioles, but they are a team that will struggle to be a .500 ball club and the Mets need to look at the Indian series as one that they should win as well.
With eleven games under their belts in June, the Mets are 9-2. Still, the offense has remained relatively quiet for the most part although it was nice to see them break out on Sunday with 18 hits against Kevin Millwood and company. Still the team is batting just .260 this month and have been offensively erratic. Hopefully the hot hitting on Sunday will carryover on the flight from Baltimore to Cleveland.
However the real story (and has been all season long) is the pitching. For June the Mets have the best ERA in baseball at 2.46. What’s been particularly impressive over the last 11 games and what I consider a very good sign is that they almost have a 3:1 strikeout to walk ratio and have only given up 3 home runs. The walks have been the biggest nemesis for the pitching staff as they are second in the major-leagues allowing the most walks (255) behind only the Brewers who best the Mets at this dubious distinction.
Obviously, we Met fans are overjoyed right now with the state of the pitching. But let’s be honest here for a moment. There’s probably not a soul out in Met-Land that foresaw this kind of pitching coming out of spring training.
Leaving Port St. Lucie, Johan Santana had an ERA of 6.75, Jon Niese an ERA of 6.52 and Mike Pelfrey, who has unquestionable been the Mets best pitcher this year left spring training with an ERA of 6.15. Opposing hitters feasted off of Pelfrey in the pre-season smacking 8 home runs through just 26 innings. But that was a different Mike Pelfrey as he has gone through a renaissance and I will make this statement with confidence: he has been one of the best and most consistent pitchers in the major leagues this year. And you know that home run problem in spring training? Pelfrey has only allowed 3 home runs through 86 innings of work and has a stellar ERA of 2.39 with a 9-1 record.
However, John Maine and Oliver Perez’s springs were a foreshadowing of the disaster to come. Maine left Port St Lucie with an ERA of 7.88 while Perez decided to outdo him with an 8.68 ERA. Maine has since been placed on the DL and as far as Perez goes, I have spent many, many hours wishing and wishing him out into the cornfield. Sadly that has not worked, so I will have to settle for Buffalo
Perhaps the biggest maneuvers that have salvaged the Maine/Perez Titanic were the addition of Hisanori Takahasi to the rotation and the promotion of R.A. Dickey. Both were afterthoughts during spring training. Takahashi was penciled in for the bullpen while Dickey seemed to have a one-way ticket to Buffalo after pitching just a handful of innings in spring training. They have both stepped up and fulfilled significant gaps in the pitching staff and have pitched surprisingly well.
But here is where things get dicey because I’d be lying if I felt that the Dickey/Takahashi combo was the Mets equivalent to the Jeff Neimann/Wade Davis duo that anchor the back-end of the Tampa Bay Rays’ rotation. In truth, I’m holding my breath waiting for them to look more like the Kyle Davies/Gil Meche tandem of the Royals.
Takahasi may own much of his success so far this season to the fact that he is an enigma to the league. Scouting reports have not been fully compiled on him and the real test will be the 2nd go-around in the league to see if he is still able to be as successful. Certainly, hitters will be making adjustments and Takahashi will need to stay a step ahead and make his own adjustments if the Mets are relaying on his continued success.
Opposing hitters are already warming up to Takahashi as he moves through the lineup two or three times. The first time around batters are hitting just .250. The average goes up a pinch the second time around to .268 but by the third time, it jumps significantly to .346. To further bring the point home, the Florida Marlins have seen Takahashi on four separate occasions this season: three times in relief and once as a starter. The third and fourth go-arounds against the Marlins have resulted in a cumulative 7 earned runs through 8.1 innings. This may be a trend the Mets will need to watch.
Dickey, on the other hand, has been around baseball for a while. What he has accomplished so far exceeds many people’s expectations, but how far can the Mets ride this gravy train with a pitcher who has a career ERA of 5.25 and a lifetime WHIP of 1.56? If you follow Dickey’s historical trends, what he has been doing this season is an anomaly in an otherwise tainted career. Dickey has never produced an ERA lower than 4.62 for a season so the concern is that Dickey’s future outings will begin to regress back to his historical trends.
Personally, I love the efforts that both Takahashi and Dickey have been putting out and I hope for their continued success. But the Mets have been playing with house money and there’s a pit in my stomach that tells me that the Mets need to do more where their pitching is concerned. They need some insurance for Dickey and Takahashi if they should falter, and in my humble opinion, not to be a downer, but I expect one of them to stumble. Perhaps Maine will come around and right himself. Perhaps there is a trade option that might provide that needed back-up. Certainly Omar Minaya should be calling clubs about now and seeing what is available. If a deal could be made to acquire some mid-level starting pitcher, the Mets could find themselves in a battle to the finish.
But one thing is for sure: if the Mets choose to look at Oliver Perez as a viable option to help them through the rest of the season, they might as well push the self-destruct button right now and save all Met fans the agony of another season of frustration. Let’s hope they find better and more suitable options in the coming weeks.
What do you think? Are Takahashi and Dickey enough for the back-end of the rotation? Or would you prefer the Mets land another arm as back-up to secure that they stay in contention for the division? Let us know your thoughts.