Today (July 8) is the last day of baseball before the 2012 All-Star Game. Raise your hand if you thought the New York Mets would be seven games over .500 (46-39) and 4.5 games out of first place in the National League East at this points in the season — hello, anyone? New York has far exceeded expectations so far this season with clutch hitting and solid starting pitching. So before the Mets scatter for the All-Star break, let’s give the team its mid-term grades for 2012.
Offense: The A-plus effort of All-Star David Wright carried the Mets’ offense in the first half, but others made contributions. Lucas Dude and lefty-killer Scott Hairston each have 12 home runs and a combined 78 RBI. If only Ike Davis started hitting sooner. He is batting .309 (24-77) with seven home runs and 28 RBIs over his last 24 games to bring his average up to .205. Overall, the Mets have managed to produce the third-most runs in the N.L. (384) on only 72 home runs. How have they done it? Entering Sunday, the opportunistic Mets have scored an MLB-best 187 two-out runs. Mid-term Grade: B
Starting pitching wasn’t supposed to be the team’s strength this season. However, led by All-Star R.A. Dickey, the N.L. Pitcher of the Month for June, the starters have stepped up. Johan Santana, who tossed the first no-hitter in franchise history on June 1, has exceeded expectations in his return from shoulder surgery and Jon Niese and Dillon Gee have shown tremendous growth. In June, the Mets tossed six shutouts and led the majors with a 2.79 ERA. Overall, the starters have a combined ERA of 3.48 and have pitched at least six innings in 19 of their last 21 games. Mid-term Grade: A
The bullpen has been New York’s glaring weakness all season. Frank Francisco, who currently is on the disabled list, has 18 saves, but his record is 1-3 with a shaky 4.97 ERA. His bullpen colleagues haven’t been any better. Entering Sunday, Mets relievers had an MLB-worst combined ERA of 4.96 and the second-most losses in the majors with 17. To underscore the problem, the Mets are 15-35 when the bullpen doesn’t allow a run and 26-4 when it doesn’t. Mid-term Grade: F
Let’s face it, the Mets are not loaded with talent. But the team’s dependable bench has helped make up for its shortcomings. With contributions from the likes of Jordany Valdespin and Omar Quintanilla, the bench has been an extension of the Mets’ starting lineup. Plus, Andres Torres and Scott Hairston have been outstanding in platoon/spot-start roles. Mid-term Grade: B+
Manager: Collins has pushed the right buttons. One of his best decisions was sticking with Ike Davis, who after slumping through most of the first half is starting to heat up. Moreover, Collins has instilled a never-say-die attitude in the team which has resulted in 17 come-from-behind victories to date. In my opinion, he’s a leading candidate for N.L. Manager of the Year. Mid-term Grade: A
Adam Martini is a freelance sportswriter who grew up in Queens, N.Y. with a view of Shea Stadium from his bedroom window. He spent many nights in the upper deck at Shea rooting for the Mets. You can follow him on Twitter @PegCitySports. Sources