As the season came to a close yesterday it’s time for me to reflect on what happened and to look for what might be lying ahead.
It might be a good idea to look at what I was expecting of the season before opening day. Well, maybe it might not be a good idea considering that most of those expectations will backfire on you sooner or later (why the heck did I pick the Blue Jays to go to the postseason anyway?). As it turns out, my only wish was that they’d finish ahead of the Marlins. Which they did. And not only did they finish ahaead of the fish (we might get into tounge twister territory with that), but they clinched 3rd place in the NL East on the last day of the season. Which dooesn’t mean anything, I know. But, hey, let’s just feel good about that for a moment.
Apart from that, what remains of this season? Well, first and foremost Harvey Day(s). Every start was a treat. A festival. An art performance. Well, most of them. But with those Harvey Days what will also be remembered is the inability to score. I mean, let’s face it, the last game of the season was the whole damn thing in a nutshell. Good starting pitching, a more than decent bullpen, but no runs. And if they got any, their opponent had to help out in lots of ways.
But, well, getting back to starting pitching, I believe with the Yankees series we have been treated a very fine dose of nice pitching performances. Which was to expect of Harvey or Wheeler. But seeing Hefner and Gee taking their game to another level was fascinating and wonderful. I am all in for hard throwing power pitchers, but I have a soft spot for those soft tossing guys as well. That being said, I don’t actually see a problem for the Mets with their starting pitching. They have 5 great guys (Harvey included) to fill out the rotation spots. And they should be able to pick up one or two veterans in case one of the regulars goes down next year. And although ppeople will hate me for saying this I think they should bring back Matsuzaka. Over his last four starts (3-0, 1.37 ERA, 26.1 IP, 13 H, 9 BB, 21 K, 6 R, 4 ER) he has shown that he still has it. And if we credit his improvement to pitching coach Dan Warthen I don’t see why he shouldn’t be brought back.
The bullpen had its shaky phases but it was great to watch Bobby Parnell step up and claim the closing role. It’s only fitting he also went down with an injury. But then the Hawk stepped up. It seemed as if every time one of the pieces in the bullpen broke down, there was another guys ready to take over. I mean, Gonzalez Germen looked promising, Scott Atchison (when healthy) proved vital, Vic Black seems to be a nice addition. And let’s not forget “Everyday” Scott Rice, who might have been the best story on the Mets this year not named Harvey or Wheeler. That being said, most of those names starred in the 2nd half of the season. The first half, well, different story, it feels. I can’t prove it, but I somehow got the impression I was way more relaxed in the 2nd half when the bullpen had to take over. Of course there need to be some upgrades, but with the aforementioned players I think the Mets are set up nicely for next year.
Moving on to the position players, I guess you could devide the season into before and after the outfield changes. Before there was Lucas Duda stumbling around in left, there was a revolving door in center (does anyone remember Rick Ankiel played for the Mets this year?) and there was Byrd in ryrd, uhm, right. I want look up how many games were lost because of bad defense in the outfield, but it must’ve been plenty.With the call-up of Juan Lagares and the addition of Eric Young Jr., the whole thing changed. While I was watching the Mets mainly because of their pitching, since June I was enjoying the outfield defense. Which right until the last day of the season was terrific! Before June every ball hit to the outfield was a potential catastrophe. And sure thing desaster. After June all of those balls became sure outs (well, sort of. Most of them. You get the picture). Watching Lagares glide through center field was like watching a figure skater. Artful, elegant, precise. All of this didn’t translate into particularly long winning streaks, but at least it kept the team in the game for a much longer time.
The infield looked a lot better, although …, well, … Ruben Tejada at short. But Wright and Murphy were more than steady, Q and Turner were nice backups and at least defensively, 1st base wasn’t a big problem. That catching was good as well (all of them, Buck, Recker and d’Arnaud. And even Centeno), which I think is shown by the great picthing stats the Mets put up. So, all in all things were pretty much okay, right?
Well, except for…
…the offense. And that’s the huge problem the Mets will be facing for next season. Score. Some. Runs. Score more runs than your opponent. Get hits. Especially with runners in scoring position. This team is built to defend. But can it hit and score? That is something they will have to find out over the offseason. There were only five players on the Mets’ roster all season hitting higher than .275. And that’s two bench players (Turner and Satin) and one guy who was traded midseason (Byrd). So except for Wright and Murphy there is no offensive prodution on this team and that needs to be addressed during the offseason. Just ask the Mariners how much good defense without any offense will help you reach the postseason. They need to figure out a way to score. And for that you need guys who can hit the ball. Doesn’t need to be a hulking bodybuilder. Just a hitter.
Maybe guys like Lagares, d’Arnaud, den Dekker or Flores will adjust to the new level until next season. After all they all made their debuts this year. If they do, fine. But I think it would be careless (and also a bit unfair) to rely on those guys improving their hitting. The front office needs to help the team as well.
Which they did with the trades they pulled. Getting Black for Byrd and Buck was nice. Bringing in EYJr for Colin McHugh was great. But they – I am getting repetative, I know – to bring in guys who can contribute offensively. The 1st base production was a desaster and as much as I like Duda and Davis, one of them clearly has to go, preferably via trade, netting the team something in return. I think, next year will be crucial for how the Alderson regime will be judged in years to come. Just trying isn’t an option for next year. They need to be ready to compete.
They brought back Terry Collins which I think think is great. Now, I don’t know anything about managing and there were a lot of times when I was shaking my head over the course of the season. He’s got his dubious moments with in game decisions. But he seems to be a guys who can handle a bunch of players over 162 games without the whole thing blowing up. How he (and the players) handled all the Valdespin moments was brilliant. (Btw, Valdespin needs to go. Period.) He also handeled the young players well and although I didn’t understand why den Dekker dind’t see more playing time down the stretch, I felt as if TC was (and still is) the right guy at the right time. That being said, he as well needs to show he’s able to improve the team next season.
There are a lot of “if”‘s for the winter, the biggest one being if Matt Harvey can avoid surgery on his elbow. But I think, I’m going to be optimistic. Hey, what else can you do? “You gotta believe”, right?