So the Metropolitans have lost their first two games to the lowly Arizona Diamondbacks and look completely flat so far in the second "half" of the season. The offense has been so atrocious that each member of the rotation must pitch a complete game shutout for the team to have a shot at victory.
Meanwhile, the Atlanta Braves have maintained their level of very good play and seem to be running away with this thing. The only consolation we have right now as Mets fans is that the Phillies are somehow outperforming the Mets right now if you define performing as finding every possible way to lose a game.
Despite all of the awful baseball and negativity, I'm still hopeful for the rest of this season. I'm not advocating a major trade of prospects for big time players from other teams to help save the season. I am saying, though, that for 2010, there's still a chance. I've got five basic reasons why.
1. Several key players have been severely under-performing since June 28. The 28th of June is the seemingly obvious point where the Mets decided to hit the skids after coming off a lost-but-not-so-bad series in the Bronx and strong performances against the very good Detroit Tigers and Minnesota Twins. Three key hitters have been awful during this stretch:
All three of these guys are either probably or definitely better than the numbers they have put up. Reyes hasn't played very much, but he will draw some walks despite his walk rate being down from the past, and he should steal plenty more bases from here on out. June 23 was the last time he even attempted a stolen base, but if he's actually healthy, I'd expect more attempts sooner than later.
Ike's a rookie and obviously still a bit of an unknown quantity, but there's probably as much reason to expect him to start hitting better as there would be for him to keep hitting like this or get worse.
Bay, of course, has been atrocious, but even without the home runs, he has been a heck of a lot better than that line as a Met and should at least start hitting for a higher average and getting on base more frequently.
As for the pitchers, Mike Pelfrey has had one of the worst imaginable months for a starting pitcher, but here are his stats since the start of the series in Puerto Rico:
12.89 ERA, Opponents hitting .519/.580/.688, 7 K, 10 BB
And you could pull any number of other stats about just how awful he's been. The consensus around these parts seems to be that he's not as good as he was during his amazing run through the first couple of months of the season but is nowhere near as bad as he's been for these four starts, particularly the last one.
2. Carlos Beltran and Luis Castillo are superior to the players they replaced. I'm not even sure an explanation is necessary for how much better Carlos Beltran is at playing baseball than Jeff Francoeur. Even if his knee is making him a bit gimpy in the outfield, there is no comparison. I'd still like to give him a little more time to shake off the rust before deeming him unfit for CF. The costly mistake last night was primarily caused by a bad read on the ball, something that we have rarely seen Beltran do while roaming CF in a Mets uniform. Maybe his speed covered up his mistakes like that one in the past, but maybe he's just not completely back to normal in terms of picking up and tracking the ball. Whatever the case, Beltran makes a team much better than Frenchy.
Castillo is less obvious and less of an upgrade in general, but for all his range and defensive abilities, Ruben Tejada's .297 OBP was one of several out-making black holes in the lineup, and at the very least Luis will find his way on base and play a capable if not amazing second base.
3. Josh Thole is still on the major league roster. This, of course, doesn't mean the Mets will magically cut ties with Rod Barajas or give Thole the vast majority of starts behind the plate, but there's more of a chance of that happening if he's on the team. If they don't play him much, there's not a whole lot of benefit to the team, and they're stunting his growth as a player. In the short term, though, the Mets have a better chance of winning any given game in which Thole is the starting catcher.
4. The Braves may actually lose games. Not tons of them, and not necessarily even lots of them, either. It is possible that with this being the game of baseball, the Braves will have a rough week or two between now and the end of the year, allowing the Mets to close the gap a bit. And if not, there's still always the crazy race for the Wild Card.
5. Ya Gotta Believe. I realize the Mets chances are slim, especially compared to what they were only a couple of weeks ago, but I can't find it in myself to give up on this team on July 21. I also realize there are some players who may be over-performing on the year and that the Braves might keep up their current pace while Rod Barajas swings at air as he starts 75% of the games from here on out. But this is a glass-half-full take on the rest of the season. I'll still be out at the games rooting for this team to make the comeback that they've been advertising they believe in since the offseason.