With the All Star Game completed, the New York Mets have two more days off before they are back in action on Friday night in San Diego. Before the second half gets underway, Mets 101 is going to grade the team's performance in the first half. The Mets were an up and down group in their first 95 games, leading to a below .500 mark at the break. Not everyone has contributed to that mark though, so we will grade position by position and evaluate everyone's performances in the first half.
Catcher: The catcher position was a problem for the Mets in the first half. Travis d'Arnaud couldn't really get going for the first two and a half months of the season, eventually winding up spending a couple of weeks with Triple-A Las Vegas. Backups Anthony Recker (.210, 3, 14) and Taylor Teagarden (.143, 1, 5) did little to help, as Mets' backstops rank in the bottom half of the National League in pretty much every offensive category. d'Arnaud has saved the group a bit by hitting close to .300 since his return from Las Vegas, but his overall numbers (.217, 6, 19) still aren't great.
First Base: The Mets started the year with a three man platoon at first base between Ike Davis, Josh Satin, and Lucas Duda. The Mets named Duda their starter after the first three games of the season and finally gave him the job for good after Davis was dealt to the Pittsburgh Pirates in mid-April. The decision has paid off for the Mets as Duda has flashed power, leading the team in home runs (14) and RBI's (49) while compiling a respectable .256 average. It helps the Mets' cause that Davis hasn't done much with Pittsburgh (.234, 5, 28). Josh Satin got sent down for failing to hit lefties, while his replacement Eric Campbell has done a better job in that regard. The Mets still rank below average in most offensive categories at first base, but Duda's power surge has helped raise their rankings in the NL of late.
Second Base: Second base is Daniel Murphy's position, and Daniel Murphy made the All Star team. Murphy led the team in games played in the first half and was a consistent offensive presence (.294, 7, 37) in the Mets' lineup. Murphy is tied for third in the National League in hits with 113 and leads the team with 56 runs scored. Murphy's strong season has the Mets near the top of the National League in production from second base.
Shortstop: The Mets spent the whole winter trying to find a shortstop and ended up being forced to settle for Ruben Tejada again. Tejada struggled out of the gate, and his backup Omar Quintanilla (.207) didn't do much better. The Mets promoted Wilmer Flores in May to give him a shot at shortstop, but his presence inspired Tejada to play better. Tejada has been serviceable enough since then, leading the Mets to send Flores back to Triple-A in June so he could get more consistent at bats. In spite of Tejada's good run, the Mets rank near the bottom of the National League in every offensive category at short except for on base percentage, which is no doubt being boosted by the fact that Tejada hit in front of the pitcher most of the season. Tejada's overall numbers (.237, 2, 21) aren't dreadful, but the Mets still could use an upgrade here.
Third Base: David Wright has manned third base for all but seven games this season, and he has put up slightly atypical Wright numbers (.285, 8, 48). Wright's power has been slow to develop this season and his batting average was killed by a brutal three week slump in June, but he had a great May where he tied for the National League lead in hits. Wright and his sub for a week, Campbell, have combined to put the Mets near the top of the NL in nearly all offensive categories sans home runs.
Outfield: The outfield situation has been an interesting one for the Mets. Curtis Granderson got off to a brutal start, hitting .145 with one home run in 7 RBI's in April, before heating up to raise his average nearly 100 points to .237. Granderson also delivered power in spades, clubbing 13 home runs and driving in 36 runs since May 1st. Juan Lagares has also been a pleasant surprise for the Mets, hitting a solid .293 while playing Gold Glove caliber defense in center field.
The problem for the Mets' outfield for a while was figuring out playing time, and for some reason Lagares got short changed for a few weeks as manager Terry Collins insisted on giving at bats to the underperforming Youngs. Chris Young (.202, 8, 27) has been an unmitigated disaster, essentially now demoted to spot starts against left handed pitchers. Eric Young Jr is also having a down year, hitting only .236 but leading the team in steals again with 25. EY also has lost the leadoff spot to Granderson, and has frequently manned the ninth spot in the batting order if he plays.
The Mets have been saved by some strong production from Triple-A callups. Kirk Nieuwenhuis (.304, 2, 10) has shown flashes of his early 2012 form in recent days, and veteran Bobby Abreu (.267, 1, 14) has shown signs of life. Campbell has also factored in here as well as the Mets try to find ways to get him more at bats.
Grade: B- (Granderson and Lagares are in the A range while the Youngs are in the low C's, so this averages them out)
Starting Pitching: One of the Mets' biggest strengths this season has been their starting rotation. Even without Matt Harvey, the Mets' rotation ERA of 3.67 ranks in the top 10 in the major leagues. The Mets have gotten strong performances from Bartolo Colon (8-8, 3.99 ERA) and Jonathon Niese (5-4, 2.96 ERA). After Jenrry Mejia got himself booted to the bullpen, Jacob deGrom (3-5, 3.18 ERA) seized the fifth spot in the rotation and Daisuke Matsuzaka (3-3, 3.55 ERA) has done an admirable job filling in for the injured Dillon Gee. The shakiest member of the rotation has been Zack Wheeler (5-8, 3.90 ERA), who has battled through some growing pains during the first half.
Bullpen: Earlier in the season, the bullpen looked as if it would be a lost cause for another season. The Mets suffered a big blow as closer Bobby Parnell was lost for the year on Opening Day with a torn UCL, leading to a merry go round of ineffective closers for a while. Kyle Farnsworth and Jose Valverde struggled mightily and were jettisoned by the end of May, while lefties John Lannan and Scott Rice found themselves in the minor leagues for their struggles.
The Mets have managed to completely re-invent the unit, and its new look has been very effective. Jenrry Mejia (10 saves) seized the closer's job and has looked up to the challenge, and the Mets have surrounded him with talented young set up men Jeurys Familia (2.06 ERA) and Vic Black (1.69 ERA). Josh Edgin has taken over Rice's role as the lefty specialist, and is being supported by veteran Dana Eveland. Carlos Torres serves as the group's glue guy, leading the unit in innings pitched and working everywhere from closing games to long relief. The Mets' bullpen has an ERA of 3.17, which is the seventh best mark in the majors. It is a truly remarkable turnaround considering how awful the group was earlier in the year.
Coaching: Collins hasn't had his best year managing the Mets. While Collins has done an admirable job making something out of nothing his first few years on the job, Collins seems to be more flustered this season. Collins has gotten into a few spats with the media this year about his lineup decisions, particularly his usage of Juan Lagares after he returned from the disabled list in May. Collins also juggled platoons at first base and shortstop for a while to the detriment of the ball club. Collins, however, deserves credit for coming up with innovative ideas to generate offense of late. His big moves, including batting pitchers eighth on occasion and using Curtis Granderson as the leadoff hitter, have led to a more productive offense in the past few weeks.
The star of the coaching staff has been pitching coach Dan Warthen. Warthen has done a stellar job working with the many young arms on the pitching staff, and did a good job helping Jenrry Mejia transition from the starting rotation to the bullpen. The other big story on the coaching staff was the change from Dave Hudgens to Lamar Johnson at hitting coach in late May. While the results didn't immediately show it, Johnson's arrival has coincided with the team being more aggressive at the plate than they ever were under Hudgens. Lucas Duda has been noticeably more aggressive since Johnson took over and his power numbers have benefited as a result.
Grade: B- (A for Warthen, C+ for the rest of the staff)
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Tags: Bartolo Colon, Baseball, Curtis Granderson, Daniel Murphy, David Wright, Jacob DeGrom, Jenrry Mejia, Juan Lagares, Lucas Duda, MLB, New York, New York Mets, Ruben Tejada, Terry Collins, Travis D'Arnaud
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