With an emphatic sweep of the Rockies earlier this week, the Mets have blown past the Phillies and are hot on the heels of the Nationals for second place in the NL East. All of morons in the "lamestream" media might have counted these plucky Mets out, but they enter this series just 16.5 games behind the Braves in the NL East. Gotta love a pennant race, am I right?
...Okay, fine, so the Mets are toast, and have been since about February. But they have plenty of interesting players who are going to be worth keeping an eye on in this series. Everyone's heard of Matt Harvey, but just because he's gone mainsteam doesn't make him any less interesting, you dirty hipster. He's one of the very best pitchers in the NL, and his raw stuff makes him a must-see whenever he pitches.
...Which won't happen in this series, because he pitched Wednesday. Shoot. But at least there's always David Wright, who remains one of the stars of the game despite playing for a bad team. He leads the NL in fWAR and he's a fun guy to watch.
...So, of course he's injured. Christ, Mets, can't you at least pretend to be interesting? You're ruining this for the rest of us. I know this wasn't supposed to be the Mets' season, and there is still some interesting young talent that will be on display in this series, it's just hard to see amid the small army of Omar Quintanillas that comprises so much of the Mets' roster.
The Mets have looked better lately, as they've gone 17-14 so far since the second half of the season began. Still, in an amazing demonstration of consistency, the Mets were ranked 20th in baseball in all of the categories I listed above. Which, frankly, seems about right.
1. Adam Eaton, CF
2. Martin Prado, LF
3. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
4. Eric Chavez, 3B
5. Aaron Hill, 2B
6. Cody Ross, RF
7. Wil Nieves, C
8. Didi Gregorius, SS
1. Eric Young, LF
2. Juan Lagares, CF
3. Josh Satin, 1B
4. Marlon Byrd, RF
5. Daniel Murphy, 2B
6. Wilmer Flores, 3B
7. John Buck, C
8. Omar Quintanilla, SS
Without Wright, the Mets lineup tips all the way over into Island of Misfit Toys territory. Eric Young Jr. couldn't find a consistent home in the Rockies' outfield, which is only sad because the Rockies have given Charlie Blackmon at-bats this year. Lagares looked like Lastings Milledge incarnate as recently as June. Satin had a career arc that looked frighteningly similar to Juan Miranda's for a while. Marlon Byrd is Marlon Byrd. I could go on.
And it's actually worked out fairly well for them. Satin was called up in early June with no instructions other than not to be Ike Davis, and he has an OPS+ of 142 since then. Lagares has put up an OPS of .947 since the end of the first half, which reminded everyone that he's still a 24-year-old with a high ceiling.
Marlon Byrd has had the type of season that would have gotten him traded for a platter of prospects to a decent team with a terrible GM just a few years ago. Even Young has played well. What the lineup lacks, at least for now, is a bonafide Exciting Young Guy worth getting excited about.
Wilmer Flores was a hot prospect at one point, and he probably is again since he's put up good numbers at various levels of the minors and is only 22. But he spent three seasons in A+ Ball, and he doesn't have true position, so he might not be worth getting stoked about. If he pans out though, it would go a long way toward making the John Bucks and Omar Quintanillas of this lineup tolerable.
Friday: Patrick Corbin (12-3, 2.33) vs. Jeremy Hefner (4-8, 4.23)
Insightful Commentary: We've heard all about how valuable Corbin has been pretty much all year from Bert and Bob, and the tendency has been to dismiss it, given that they say that about essentially everyone on the team. It's generally centered around the team's record in games that Corbin has started, which can be misleading. However, it's worth noting that Corbin is currently second (behind Kershaw) among NL starters in Win Probability Added, suggesting that the booth might be onto something here.
After being the sort of pitcher that the Quality Start stat was created to placate in the first half of the season, Hefner struggled to start the second half, with three straight rough-ish starts. However, his six-inning, three-run start against the Royals his last time out might suggest that he's rounding back into the prime "just adequate enough" form that he demonstrated in the first few months.
Saturday: Brandon McCarthy (2-5, 4.94) vs. Zack Wheeler (4-2, 3.73)
Insightful Commentary: McCarthy didn't last all that long in his first start after coming off the DL, and his control was a bit wonky, particularly early on. Still, his velocity seemed fine, which would have probably been the first sign that he was suffering lingering effects from the shoulder injury. Assuming that's not the case, I remain cautiously optimistic about McCarthy going forward.
Ahahahahahahaha Giants. And now that I've gotten that out of my system, we can look objectively at the former Giants prospect. The ERA looks pretty good, particularly for a rookie. But he's struggled with walks at every level, and that hasn't gone away now that he's in the majors. There are probably pitchers that can get away with a BB/9 of nearly five, but those pitchers strike out a lot more batters than Wheeler has in the majors so far and are probably not that great to begin with.
Sunday: Zeke Spruill (0-1, 6.48) vs. Jon Niese (3-6, 4.32)
Insightful Commentary: Cahill isn't ready yet, which means that the Diamondbacks get a redux of the Zeke Spruill Experience. Playing the Rangers in Arlington is a rough way to begin a major league career, and the three home runs that Spruill gave up while he was doing it suggests that he probably agrees. Consider not doing that again, Zeke.
Niese is coming off the DL after missing more than a month with a rotator cuff injury. After an awful start to the season, Niese was pitching much better before the injury, which is probably why the team wanted him back this year from an injury that it would have been easy to shut him down over.
Three pressing questions:
What's going on with (former Sun Devil!) Ike Davis? Well, he's back in the majors, which qualifies as a good sign. And after being unplayably bad for the first two months and change, he's hit better since coming back up, with an OPS of .880 in about of month of games. He isn't going to maintain an OBP of .448 forever, but it's nice to see some good things come his way in what has been a terrible season.
So, what's the plan here? The Mets approached this season the way that you or I might approach a dentist appointment: as something to get through as quickly and painlessly as possible for the sake of future health. The Mets are trying to win in 2014 and beyond, so the point is to get as many pieces in place for that to happen. But in the meantime, their record does not matter.
So how're they doing? The Mets' pitching staff of the future is generally in place, give or take a Noah Syndergaard or two, but the future lineup is riddled with holes even in a best-case scenario. Catching prospect Travis D'Arnaud is the only blue-chip position prospect in the Mets' system at this point, and given the Mets' not-great track record at developing position prospects (see: previous question), it's hard to feel that confident that there are a bunch of sleepers in the system. The team will be better next year, but I'm skeptical that the offense will be good enough to make the playoffs for a little while.
Mets Blog: Amazin' Avenue
(All stats via Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference unless otherwise indicated.)