All Stars, Report Cards And The Future

So the "halfway" mark is here - well, the "more-than-halfway" mark to be accurate given that some 59% of the season is already behind us.

The Mets have improved but they still aren't fit.

The norm is a halfway mark report card but as bizarre as this beginning and midway point has been for the Mets, it's really quite impossible to bother trying to figure out if the Mets of the first three months or the last month are the team to be graded.

Do we grade them on their ability to be inconsistent? They certainly merit an A for inconsistency.

Do we grade them during the Willie months, certainly an F, given that Willie got the sack and didn't guide the Mets to 9 game winning streaks.

Do we grade them on the Jerry month? A so-so beginning building to this All-Star break climax.

Do we grade our belief or faith in these Mets team? Does a 9 game winning streak really make the Mets the favourite of the division?

Ugly, quasi-developed Mets

There have been two different teams wearing Mets uniforms this season. Most of this season the two teams, the Ugly Mets and the Competent Mets have changed kits seemingly day by day. Over the last 9 games, the Competent Mets, indeed perhaps even the superior Mets, have put on the uniform and have not taken it off.

Mets of the last 9 victories...

So a mid season report card doesn't really have any merit. Either that, or the Army is just plain lazy. Let's just say if it wasn't for the sudden surge of Pelfrey along with timely appearances of Chavez, Argenis Reyes and Fernando Tatis, the Mets would still be floundering. That's four key players nobody really expected to play key roles back in Spring Training.

Instead, a look at the second half in the NL East.

The Mets are a half game behind the Phillies. The Marlins are a game and a half behind the Phillies. It is a three team race but reality dictates it's really going to come down to the Mets and the Phillies. And note this: the Braves are not even involved. Let's do a little dance for that first off.

The Mets, as we are well aware, have already played all their tough West coast games, have already done their deadly road trips. From the 22nd of July to the end of the month they will face in order, the Phillies and Cards at Shea and the Marlins in Florida.

Most of August should be a breeze until the end of August when they go to Philly for a pair of games and then host Florida. August is when the Mets have a good chance to put another good month together.

In September it gets a bit dodgier. First, a three game series in Milwaukee who will no doubt be fighting for the wild card slot. Then three games at Shea against the Phillies. And keep in mind the season ends fairly brutally: three games in Atlanta followed by four games against the Cubs before closing out the season with three games against the Marlins. The last seven games of the season will be at home.

The defending NL East champions have a key run in July as well. They'll open post-All Star break with a 6 game road run against the Marlins and then the Mets. Then they host the Braves for three games before closing with a whimper against the Nats.

In August, the Phillies start at the Cards then host the Marlins. They get a slight break against the Pirates before hitting the road for 7 game west coast trip against the Dodgers and Padres. They also close out the month in Chicago for a 4 game series against the Cubs. Bearing in mind the ease of the Mets' August schedule, this could prove to be the difference in this race.

In September, they will face the Braves 6 times, the Mets 3 times, the Marlins 6 times and the Brewers three times.

The schedule favours the Mets.

The Mets' clear problems are the outfield corners (unless you expect Chavez and Tatis to carry on as they have lately or Church to make a miraculous return). They don't seem to need Castillo back at second. Whilst Schneider has waned as the season has gone on, Castro has been there to pick up the slack. Delgado appears to finally be making a comeback.

The starting pitching has been great of late but Pedro has not been Pedro and might be injured again. Santana has been no true ace, although I expect he will finish with a flourish. Maine has been inconsistent and disappointing for his failure to pitch deep into his outings. Oliver Perez has been what you would expect from him. If Pelfrey truly has "found" himself this might be sufficient to carry the rotation.

The bullpen - Billy Wagner showed again in the All Star game that he likes to choke when the game matters most. Not a good thing for a closer. He isn't on the level of Armando Benitez but he isn't many steps above him. It's a real problem. And will Schoeneweis and Heilman continue their run or return to their previous inconsistencies? The bullpen is a real question mark, especially in light of how good the Phillies bullpen is by comparison.

Of course, the Phillies starting rotation is rubbish. If they don't get another pitcher before the deadline, you can't realistically expect they will be able to stay in the race.

Their batting order remains impressive but other than a short run that pushed them to first early this season, they haven't really scared anyone in a while.

Overall, comparing the IFs and the Certainties, the Mets are in a better position.

When the season began, my predictions envisioned the Mets winning the NL East and whilst for the majority of this season that has seemed generous, I'm beginning to believe the fates might surprise us. One thing for certain, my prediction of the Braves earning the wild card was certainly misguided. Almost as much as the A's-Mets World Series.

But that's what they play the games for.

We begin the second half perhaps even more optimistic than the first half. With a little luck, it'll be a tight, exciting NL East race.


sanchez said...

the Phillies suck. If the Mets can't win this weak division, everyone but Wright should be put on the trading block.

jdon said...

I hate to even suggest this, but when does Pelfrey hit his innings "wall". He can't hve thrown a ton of innings last year, could he? Oh well, he is big and strong. I just remember late last year he was throwing 90 in some games. As for the Cubs and Braves, they might have nothing to play for when we face them. That is a plus.

Jaap said...

I dunno jdon, he's surpassed his innings total for the 2006 and 2007 combined already. I reckon he'll be good for another 8 or 9 starts, if indeed, he can even maintain this dominance he's been showing lately, but good point.

Jaap said...

well sanchez, maybe this won't even be an issue at season's end, let's hope.

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