COMMENTARY | There has been plenty of negative press surrounding the New York Mets over the last two weeks. They've lost four games in a row, have fallen seven games under .500 (14-21) for the first time this season, and still have three games left to play against the NL-best St. Louis Cardinals. New York hasn't been doing a lot of things, but the most glaring issue is their lack of offense.
In the month of May (10 games played), the Mets have accumulated a .224/.289/.383 line. In their 333 at-bats, the team has struck out 93 times, while walking on only 29 occasions. With an organizational philosophy that preaches patience and taking a lot of pitches, it's currently not translating into success on the field. At least, I wouldn't say a 3.21 K/BB ratio equals success.
The one player in the lineup that has continued to hit despite New York's team-wide slump is David Wright. In his last ten games played, the Captain is hitting .306 with three home runs, 5 RBIs, seven runs scored, and six walks. Normally, that's what we expect to see from the third baseman. However, with the rest of the order doing next to nothing, it looks like he's been the only hitter having any success.
When Wright signed an eight-year extension this past winter to remain with the Mets, I couldn't have been happier. Every team needs someone who can lead the way, and I felt that he was the right man in Flushing. While I was happy, I also hoped we wouldn't watch him waste the prime years of his career on bad teams. According to "the plan", 2014 is the target for New York to begin being consistently competitive. It's clear that 2013 will be a transition year of sorts, but it's frustrating to watch this team flounder, while Wright produces.
The Mets' captain is far and away their best position player, but I don't feel as though he's capable of putting a team on his back for a prolonged period of time. This is magnified when he has no protection in the lineup. The leadoff position has already been somewhat of a revolving door, with Ruben Tejada currently occupying it with his sub-.250 batting average. Daniel Murphy's three-hit game May 13 th against the Cardinals could help him bust of out his slump, as he hits in front of Wright.
However, no pitcher will feel the need to throw anything Wright can hit when Ike Davis, John Buck, and Lucas Duda are hitting behind him. With regard to Davis, we're all aware of his struggles and what he hasn't been able to do this season. Buck is still among the league leaders with 10 home runs and 29 RBIs, but it's been 10 days since he's driven in a run, and has struck out 17 times in the last week and a half. Duda has had his moments this season, but he's currently going through a rough patch, collecting only three hits in his last 10 games.
With those three struggling as much as they are behind Wright, there is no reason for a pitcher to challenge the third baseman at all. They can continually live on the corners, doing everything they can to prevent him from beating them. It's easy to do that when the hitters coming to bat behind him haven't been doing a thing.
When the Mets surprised baseball in the first half of 2012 with a 46-40 start, they were able to do two things: solid starting pitching and timely hitting. R.A. Dickey and Johan Santana led the charge on the mound to a 3.97 team ERA, while David Wright was a nightly spark at the plate, hitting .351/.441/.563 with 11 homers and 59 RBIs. Once it started going south, their starting pitching fell apart, and even though Ike Davis came to life, no one else did. Hurlers began pitching around Wright consistently, and he wasn't able to sustain a season-long hot streak.
Unfortunately, New York is getting nothing right now, except for production from Wright. The starting pitching has been incredibly inconsistent outside of Matt Harvey, as they boast a team ERA of 4.45. That has already put stress on the bullpen, which has been overworked (123 IP by relievers, fifth most in National League) and is underperforming. However, Wright has been the lone bright spot at the plate, posting a .295/.412/.516 line with five homers and 24 RBIs.
It's obvious that Wright needs help in order for the Mets to win some ballgames, and the sooner, the better. For him to continue playing consistently, he'll need some protection in the lineup. Tejada and Murphy will have to set the table in front of him, but Davis, Buck, and Duda need to get on track. If any of them can instill some kind of fear into opposing pitchers, it will allow Wright to get some better pitches to hit. If he doesn't, he'll eventually lose patience, start to expand his strike zone, and become less productive at the plate. We saw it happen in the second half of 2012, and he's likely already on the verge again this season.
The Mets likely won't be a playoff team this year, but I'd like to see some progress toward being competitive again. I don't mind seeing New York go through growing pains, because that means they're growing. Right now, especially with the recent signing of Rick Ankiel, growing isn't the right word to use for this team.
Matt Musico's Mets opinion has been featured on MLB Trade Rumors, MetsBlog, Amazin' Avenue and Rising Apple. He also provides his analysis and opinion on the rest of Major League Baseball at his personal blog, On The Way Home .
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