Oh, There’s a Trade Deadline?

As ball clubs across the country make bold moves before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, the New York Mets have virtually done nothing. Secondary back-up shortstop Omar Quintanilla was sent to the Baltimore Orioles for cash considerations and pitcher Miguel Batista is now with the Atlanta Braves, but none of the trade rumors that have surfaced on the Internet have come to fruition.

Colorado Rockies right-handed catcher Ramon Hernandez is allegedly too expensive for the cash-strapped team. Relief pitcher Tim Byrdak has wound up in the rumor mill, but he remains on the roster. Various teams, including the San Francisco Giants and Texas Rangers, have expressed interest in left fielder Scott Hairston, but according to the Star Ledger the Mets want him to play another season. The New York Post, however, is reporting that ownership has its ears open. But three days prior to the deadline Hairston remains on the bench.

A one-year contract will presumably rise above Hairston’s current price of $1.1 million. The Mets are in search of a right-handed power bat, and they should not have to look any further past what they already have. Hairston is .259/.300/.514 with 12 home runs and 16 doubles in 83 games this season. Outfielder Jason Bay is clearly incapable of fulfilling the Mets’ need for a right-handed slugger. However, with Mike Baxter set to return on Monday and the eventual comeback of Lucas Duda once he finds his swing in the Minors, the outfield will be crowded, and Hairston’s breakthrough season off the bench could be lucrative in a trade.

What is most alarming is that the Mets have lost 12 games since the All-Star break and general manager Sandy Alderson has not taken any action. A move for a new relief pitcher (San Diego Padres reliever Huston Street has come up in trade rumors on Mets Blog) could have helped lower the Mets’ MLB-worst bullpen ERA.

If something isn’t broken there is no need to fix it, but ignoring major cracks as the water seeps through is unacceptable.

Angel Pagan Is Gone, Torres Can’t Fill His Void

Angel Pagan does not stand out amongst former members of the New York Mets. He played in New York from 2008 to 2011 but was not awarded significant at-bats until 2010, a season in which he averaged .290 with 11 home runs, 37 stolen bases and 69 RBIs. His productivity declined in 2011 with a .262 average, seven home runs, 32 stolen bases and 56 RBIs.

Pagan, a center fielder, was due $4.85 million in arbitration this season. But the Mets lost faith in him and chose to send him to the San Francisco Giants late last year. They also lost speed and on-base percentage. As of July 16 he is averaging .281 with five home runs, 17 stolen bases and 34 RBIs, on pace to at least match his 2010 numbers.

In return for Pagan the Mets received Andres Torres, who as of July 23 is averaging .222 with just one home run, nine stolen bases and 24 RBIs. He is a downgrade. Pagan is succeeding in San Francisco while Torres has been stuck in a slump most of the season, showing little evidence that he is consistent enough to be a mainstay at the top of the lineup. Ike Davis averages .207 but he has produced 14 home runs and 54 RBIs.

Torres is speedy around the bags but it means nothing if he cannot reach base. He puts up far too many blanks in box scores. Losing Pagan, who at times hit leadoff over the past two seasons, doused the spark the Mets once had. Torres is an easy out. He is far more agile in center field than Pagan, but it does not compensate for his meager offensive production.

At least the Giants also threw in right-handed reliever Ramon Ramirez. That could have made the trade worthwhile if he was able to throw a strike. He is one for three in save opportunities (hopefully the Mets don’t call on him for a save ever again) and holds a ballooning ERA of 4.58. Even more telling is the unintentional 20 walks he issued in just 39.1 innings pitched. Just last year in San Francisco he threw 68.2 innings on the season and walked 26 batters, a less alarming ratio.

As the Mets drop below .500 it would be unfair to say Pagan would have kept the Mets in playoff contention, but would the team be this near the edge of the cliff? Nobody knows for certain, but general manager Sandy Alderson sure got the short end of the stick in that trade.

An Unamazin’ Weekend

Oh what three days can change. Just one game out of the Wild Card going into the All-Star break, the Mets get swept out of Atlanta in their first post-break series and fall 3.5 games behind. 

With nine days of rest after collapsing against the Phillies on July 4, starter Chris Young left little suspense about his next performance early on against the Braves. Young’s three walks outnumbered his two strikeouts, he gave up five runs by the third inning and was back in the dugout by the fourth. The Mets rallied with four runs in the fourth inning but Young dug his lineup too big of a hole to climb out of, and the bullpen gave up an additional two runs, including a deal-sealing solo bomb off Braves third baseman Chipper Jones.

It’s one game. The Mets seemingly could have won if Young was able to go the distance and close out better in two-strike situations. But even the rotation’s pocket aces, R.A. Dickey and Johan Santana, could not win against a powerful Braves offense. Dickey’s All-Star glow faded a bit with a five-run, five-inning outing on July 14 and, despite a fiesty seven runs from the Mets on small ball, Bobby Parnell gave up a 7-5 lead in the bottom of the eighth by allowing the Braves three runs. Then Braves closer Craig Kimbrel made quick work of the Mets in the ninth inning.

It’s just two games, two that the Mets could have won with better pitching. But the third straight loss on July 15, 6-1, was plain bad all around. Did Terry Collins raise expectations too high by declaring that the Mets are “in the hunt” earlier this month? With a record still a sliver above .500, there is little disappointment in the team compared to the past few seasons. But new Wild Card expectations make this past weekend deflating.

More Wins At Home, Greater Accuracy Away

By Michael Mandelkern

One anomaly about the Mets’ first half is that, despite having a better record at home (26/46) than away (20/40), most of its starting lineup has a higher batting average on the road than at Citi Field. Ruben Tejada, Ike Davis, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Scott Hairston and David Wright all see the ball better outside of Queens. They collectively average 0.071 higher away than at home.

Davis is the most glaring example of this discrepancy. He averages a respectable .269 away, but even some pitchers would be upset to have his .134 average at Citi Field. His 12 home runs and 49 runs batted in underscore how valuable he can be when he connects. Davis causes far more of this damage on the road than he does at home. As a result, his overall batting average is a lackluster .201.

Wright’s average is high across the country, but he swings the bat at a monstrous .392 on the road with a still enviable .312 at Citi Field. Despite Wright and Davis’ drastic differences, the Mets have a higher winning percentage (56 percent) at home than away (50 percent).

Even though Daniel Murphy, Lucas Duda and Josh Thole can boast better averages at home than on the road, their total offensive output is considerably outweighed by the performances of Wright, Davis, Hairston, Tejada and Nieuwenhuis. If they  each made even moderate improvements under the Flushing spotlight, that 56 percent victory rate at home could easily reach 60, which might be the nudge the team needs to play on into October.

Where the Mets Stand

By Michael Mandelkern

The New York Mets entered the All-Star break on July 8 with a 46-40 record, about 7.5 games above expectations (and that’s being generous) and within a game of the Wild Card. History cautions fans against conjuring up postseason hope this early, but with a 8/12 record against the wounded Philadelphia Phillies and 18/30 record overall against the National League East, desperation turns into a legitimate aspiration.

The Mets are consistently inconsistent: the team’s longest winning streak is five games and the longest losing streak is four. The Amazins hold a 18/30 record against the rest of the NL East but an underwhelming 28/56 record against the rest of Major League Baseball. Being able to flip a coin to decide the team’s fate won’t get them into the playoffs. Thirty-nine of the last 76 games of the season are against division rivals, so the Mets need to remain competitive in the east and become more of a threat to everyone else in the Wild Card race.

The Mets fluctuated like the stock market from June 8 to June 22, with a 6-6 record over that stretch in a quadruple sweep. It began with a pummeling sweep at the hands of the Bronx Bombers, an explosion of that anger on the Tampa Bay Rays only to face the broom themselves against the Cincinnati Reds followed by a redeeming three consecutive victories (including two shutouts) over the Baltimore Orioles.

Although the Mets are 23/42 against sub-.500 teams as of the All-Star break (which include the Phillies, Marlins and Brewers), they sometimes struggle against teams that are the laughing stock of the MLB. New York won a humiliating 2/6 games against the Chicago Cubs and got swept by the Houston Astros. The Cubs and Astros are struggling to reach .400 and are shivering at the bottom of the NL Central cellar.

Those are must-win games; the Mets cannot afford to squander those opportunities. They took advantage of a hobbled Los Angeles Dodgers, taking three of four games in the series, and surprised many by doing the same to the world champion St. Louis Cardinals to start off June (including Johan Santana’s no-hitter), yet have also appeared more futile than the far-below .500 teams they have lost against.

Who would have thought last season the Mets would be able to outscore the Phillies 22-12 on their home turf over three games and go undefeated in the away series? It is no surprise that the Atlanta Braves are ahead of the Amazins, but it is by a razor-thin margin of 0.5 games.

Second place is within striking distance. Don’t count out the Mets.