Baseball can humble you in a hurry. Two days ago the Mets were on a 10-1 streak and a game-and-a-half up in the NL East. Now they've lost two straight by a combined score of 21-5, they've watched their two best starter get roughed up something fierce, and they're now back in second place, riding bitch once again to the Phillies.
If you haven't seen them already, prepare for the deluge of articles declaring that the Mets' preseason concerns over pitching and whatnot have suddenly reappeared. This is a trick. Unless we're talking about injuries (and I don't think we are), we don't suddenly learn anything about baseball teams. Ever. This is the same team that peeled off win after win against the Cubs, Braves, and Dodgers last week, three mediocre teams who were playing especially poorly at the time. Now they've been demolished in consecutive games by a good Phillies team which played especially well for one inning each day. We obviously can't just throw those two frames away, but if you're looking for a silver lining it's that Mike Pelfrey and Johan Santana each let an inning get away from him, and that in the other 16 innings the Mets were still outscored, but only by a margin of 6-5, which, for whatever it's worth, is only enough to lose one game of the two.
Neither Pelfrey nor Santana was as good as he looked through four starts, nor was he as bad as he looked this weekend. Forget about the last two weeks, good and bad, because this team still has a bunch of problems that aren't going away. Two-fifths of their rotation are massive question marks. Luis Castillo has been terrible, while the Mets are basically throwing away roster spots on Gary Matthews Jr. and Frank Catalanotto, whose collective usefulness as baseball players is rapidly approaching zero. The bullpen isn't nearly as good as people seem to think. Raul Valdes leads that group with a 3.75 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Guess what these numbers are.
Give up? Those are the respective walk rates of Hisanori Takahashi, Francisco Rodriguez, Fernando Nieve, Pedro Feliciano, Jenrry Mejia, and Manny Acosta. The relief corps is held together with chicken wire and duct tape, and when it eventually implodes -- I'm betting sooner rather than later -- we'll get to hear about that as well.
Instead of trying to regain the form of the team that looked unbeatable against a slew of also-rans, the Mets should take this weekend as a wake-up call and realize that things are not all good, that they have serious deficiencies in multiple areas, and that they had better address them sooner rather than later if they want to capitalize on an opportunity to sneak through the postseason back door in a very underwhelming (at least so far) National League. I'm no genius, but start with a few low-level moves that will improve the team in measurable ways.
- Jettison, maim, or otherwise dispose of the dried-up carcasses of Gary Matthews and Frank Catalanotto. Replace with Jason Pridie and Mike Hessman/Chris Carter.
- Dump Manny Acosta and demote Jenrry Mejia to Double-A. Call up Kiko Calero and RA Dickey, the latter of which should be the first option if (when?) John Maine and/or Oliver Perez are ousted from the rotation.
- Seriously consider signing Pedro Martinez, not because of nostalgia but because he's probably better than some other options the Mets have (and might be better than Maine/Perez right now).
None of these moves represents a panacea, but they should each provide at least incremental improvements over the current roster. One of the most important things a general manager can do is to recognize shortcomings before they manifest in disastrous ways, which isn't necessarily mutually exclusive with "riding the hot hand". It means being realistic when overperformers begin to regress, and to move quickly to replace them instead of naively hoping they will regain that artificially inflated level of performance.
Don't misconstrue these ramblings as just another reactionary Henny Penny routine. The salient points here are: 1) things haven't suddenly gotten worse, just as 2) things aren't likely to suddenly get better (though a few wins against the so-so Reds could give that appearance). Be smart, be far-sighted, be proactive.
Santana long balls hurt Mets from the start
Though Barajas and Wright did their part
How can Wright ever be thought as a hero
If Met pitchers won't back long ball with a zero
Johan is usually cause for fan zen
But not on a night that he's given up ten
Big winners: David Wright, +21.9% WPA, Rod Barajas, +18.2% WPA
Big losers: Johan Santana, -71.9% WPA, Gary Matthews Jr., -7.3% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: right three-run home run in first, +24.0% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Victorino grand slam in fourth, -37.3% WPA
Total pitcher WPA: -73.3% WPA
Total batter WPA: +23.3% WPA
GWRBI!: Shane Victorino
Nice job by Gina; his effort in the game thread embiggens us all.
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