The Mets are picking up steam and most importantly, they are doing it on the road. Although they remained in second place, 1.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves after last nights win, they have won eight out of their last ten games and are currently the hottest team in the National League.
Ironically, both losses came in games that their ace Johan Santana started, and while that trend will assuredly stop, it does show that the Mets can win without their ace and that the rotation is much deeper than what everyone thought.
Many of us keep waiting for the Dickey to flop, but all he does is keep on winning ever since the Mets tabbed him to replace Oliver Perez. The Mets are 5-0 in his starts and he has posted a very sharp 2.78 ERA, second only to Mike Pelfrey. Worries over his control have been overblown, and even with his knuckler he has one of the lowest walk rates on the entire team.
We all cringed after Mike Pelfrey regressed last season, a season in which Omar Minaya proclaimed him the Mets number two pitcher. It seems that Minaya was right all along, he was just a year to early. In fact, some would argue that Pelf may have even surpassed Johan in the role of ace. I don’t know about that, but I would say Pelfrey is without question the team’s new stopper.
Hisanori Takahashi bounced back nicely to win last night against the Orioles. After back to back poor starts, Takahashi adjusted and looked dominant at times as he helped the Mets notch their first consecutive road wins. He may or may not go back to the bullpen if and when John Maine returns, but wherever he ends up it’s very clear he has become a useful weapon for the Mets.
You can’t say enough good things about Jonathan Niese. The 23-year old southpaw has strung together two spectacular starts since his return from the DL. He’s pitching over his head right now, but has clearly provided enough evidence to prove he belongs in the middle of the Mets rotation. He will only get better as he matures, but I love the flashes of brilliance he has shown thus far.
Finally, we have Johan Santana. He’s coming off a couple of rough outings, but hardly as bad as some have lamented. Yes his strikeout rate is down, but the sample size is far too small the stat-heads lack the insight to measure the heart of a warrior like Santana. Johan may have lost some zip on his fastball, but they don’t take into account how he has improved as a pitcher. He relies more on his intellect, his guts and his guile more than his heater, and it’s the mark of a great pitcher. In his last six starts he has allowed seven runs in 43.1 innings for a 1.45 ERA. In his last six starts of the season, Johan Santana has pitched better than his first six starts. Still worried?
It’s been beaten into our heads that great pitching beats great hitting. The Mets have certainly proved that thus far this season.
I’m no longer as worried about adding a frontline starter as I was before the season started. Sure, I would gladly take a Roy Oswalt or Cliff Lee on the team, but I no longer view that as something the Mets have to do to win this season.
Instead, what I want more than another starter is to see the offense perform more consistently.
I’m concerned more about Jason Bay right now than anything else. Jeff Francoeur is outperforming him in homeruns, RBI’s, slugging percentage and even strikeout rate, and to Francoeur’s credit he has done it batting in front of the pitcher’s spot all at a fraction of Bay’s cost.
Jose Reyes is finally showing flashes of his prior self and the timing couldn’t be any better. We’ll need him to be on top of his game if we are going to win this division.
The catching tandem of Rod Barajas and Henry Blanco might be Minaya’s greatest achievement when you consider their impact on the rotation as well as their surprising offense and clutch bats.
The adjustments Minaya has made with the promotions of Ike Davis, Chris Carter, Jesus Feliciano and Ruben Tejada have been significant and worth noting. I didn’t think this team was that deep, but our GM has proven me wrong. No Met fan is pining for Adam La Roche, Nick Johnson or even Carlos Delgado anymore.
From the pitching to the offense to the bench, this Mets team has made more noise this season than any of the experts expected.
We wanted meaningful baseball and that is exactly what the Mets have delivered. It can only get better from here.