Below .500, Mets Show True Colors: FOLLOW ME @metsonmymind

The New York Mets made a statement on Opening Day with 11 runs and 13 hits. Six players had multiple hits, including Colin Cowgill who delivered a grand slam. Opening Day inspired momentary hope for the 2013 season, but devout Mets fans knew it was only a mirage.

April has exposed the team’s flaws. They have been struggling to capitalize with runners in scoring position for most of the past week. Aside from Jonathon Niese and Matt Harvey, no one else in the pitching rotation is reliable.  The bullpen has flashes of competency but generally expands opponents’ leads or cancels out any progress the Mets lineup makes.

The Mets have scored a high amount of runs per game this season, but mostly because of several high-scoring routs against lowly teams. For the most part they struggle to turn hits and walks into runs, and the shortcomings are as painful as nails to a chalkboard. Manager Terry Collins shakes up the lineup each game in an effort to spark the offense to no avail. Most of the outfielders cannot consider themselves everyday players and are not provided enough at-bats to prove themselves.

Lucas Duda, positioned at left field, has been the only everyday outfielder. Ike Davis has been in a rut since the start of the season and has been pushed him down as far as seventh in the lineup. On April 27 the ever-reliable and clucth Daniel Murphy hit third in the lineup and David Wright fourth in the cleanup position, even though Wright only has two homeruns on the season.

Davis was expected to bat cleanup based on his power surge throughout the second half of last season, but now he strikes out in multiple scoring opportunities and finds himself behind in the count. Despite blasting four homeruns, his below-.200 average makes him merely a sporadic threat. He has developed a reputation for arguing with umpires and throwing his bat after striking out; Mets fans would rather see him send the ball to the seats.

The team desperately needs Davis’ power so that runners do not get stranded. John Buck leads the team with home runs and RBIs but will unlikely be able to sustain this pace. He is already cooling off and swinging and missing more. Buck has single handedly won games for the Mets, masking poor pitching and occasionally shoddy defense in the process.

The Mets hit a walk-off grand slam against the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 24 and shut out the Washington Nationals on April 21, but those highlights are not bright enough to give the Mets a winning record. Instead of being shocked and disappointed when the Mets lose, fans have become surprised when they score runs and win.

The lineup is too patient, unable to get a big hit or too aggressive and on its third out in under three minutes. The bullpen is either flawless when the Mets already have a large lead or a punching bag in a tight game. Margin for error on the Mets is razor thin because there is a sparse amount of talent on the team.

On April 27 reliever Robert Carson gave up five runs in the fifth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies, stretching a tight 3-2 games into an 8-2 rout on the Mets. They ultimately lost 9-4 on national television. It is embarrassing enough that their games are broadcasted at all. 

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The Mets Crash and Burn in Colorado: Follow me @metsonmymind for more

The New York Mets have fallen from the grace early in the 2013 season. They unleashed a juggernaut offense against the San Diego Padres, Miami Marlins and Minnesota Twins with home runs in multiple consecutive games, clutch two-out hitting and crooked numbers galore. They were 7-4 at one point.

But then they played a double header against the Colorado Rockies and lost twice.

In the Mets’ defense they had to endure frigid temperatures and snow in Denver, but so did the Rockies. They swept the Mets last August in a four-game series in Queens, when the temperature was high.

The gap between the Mets’ potential and what they actually accomplish is vast. They are as polarizing as the differences between frigid Denver and the humid summer of New York City.

Ike Davis is struggling in the early going, Daniel Murphy is knocking the ball to all parts of the field and David Wright is consistent on offense. All of that is to be expected, but what is most shocking is the defensive deterioration of Ruben Tejada. He was nearly non-existent with his bat throughout Spring Training and has already committed six errors this season. Tejada threw away a toss to Ike Davis during the second half of an April 16 doubleheader against the Rockies, driving in the tying runs late in the game on an error. The Mets lost in the tenth inning.

John Buck is on a historic hot streak, Jordany Valdespin looks promising and Matt Harvey is brilliant in the front end of the rotation as a No. 2 to Jonathon Niese. But two crucial anchors of the Mets infield, Davis at first base and Tejada at shortstop, are struggling on different sides of the plate.

Mets fans have been spoiled by Tejada’s basic, reliable defensive prowess. Now he is unable to make those tough plays look routine, and is even botching routine grounders and throwing wildly. Davis was scorching throughout the second half of last season but often finds himself behind in pitch counts because he cannot lay off breaking balls in the dirt and far outside.

It is easy to win games when the lineup is able to go completely around the order in one inning, but that is a rarity. Under the veil of massive run support is a pitching rotation that only has two quality starters and a combustible bullpen. The relievers could not even contain an 8-2 lead during the nightcap of the April 16 doubleheader. Then again, Tejada and Wright botched easy groundball plays.

The team, now 7-6, seemed dominant before it arrived in Denver. Now the Mets are out of sync. The infield cannot capitalize on the groundballs that the pitching staff induces; the offense goes cold when the score tightens up; and the team does not have an established closer or leadoff hitter. Manager Terry Collins mixes up the lineup so often that some players do not know if they are starters or just off the bench. He must be held accountable for when the lineup cannot cash in with runners in scoring position but most of the chips he has to play with are barely Major League caliber.

The first week of Mets baseball was an unexpected outburst of runs that fans had reason to be excited about, but they must have known it would not last. The series’ against the Padres, Marlins and Twins were thrilling, but those teams are all near bottom of the barrel in the MLB as well.

Once the Mets face real competition their massive flaws will be exposed, sometimes on national television. Their potential will shine, at times, when the defense and offense work in harmony.

Do not expect the Mets to contend for the postseason, or even win over four games in a row, but the glimmers of how good they can be is enough to keep watching. 

The Mets Beat Miami, but Still Areas of Concern

The New York Mets started the 2013 season with a bang: 19 runs over the first two games to be exact. Jonathon Niese held the San Diego Padres to two runs over 6 2/3 innings on Opening Day and the Mets lineup drove in runners in scoring position virtually every chance they had.

But the third and fourth games exposed the Mets’ anemic offense and shaky bullpen, dropping the team’s record to 2-2. As the team’s new ace, Niese took the mound on April 6 against the Miami Marlins in an effort to keep the team above a .500 record. Niese contained the Marlins to two runs over six innings but did not get the win. However, the Mets defeated Miami 7-3.

Manager Terry Collins has altered the lineup over the first few games of the season. He experimented with right fielder Mike Baxter at leadoff on April 6 after previously trying centerfielder Colin Cowgill and utility man Jordany Valdespin in past games. Baxter does not have much speed or power, but he is arguably the most patient hitter in the lineup. He has a career .358 on-base percentage despite just a .254 average.

Baxter drew a walk in the first and seventh innings, inducing the pitcher to expose his full arsenal. He also singled in the third inning. Since Baxter is not a free swinger he could be the most consistent candidate to hit in the leadoff position.

The Mets are able to get runners in scoring position but struggle mightily to bring them to home plate. Collins is likely to shuffle the lineup like a deck of cards all season if there continues to be a lack of chemistry. The hits and walks have no meaning if they do not turn into runs. Murphy did deliver an RBI triple but the majority of his at-bats were cause for concern

Daniel Murphy had a flat game, striking out on three pitches in the first inning, weakly grounding out into a double play in the third inning and hitting into another lazy groundout in the sixth inning.

Ruben Tejada has already committed four errors this season and has largely failed to deliver clutch hitting. The lineup lacks pop and talent, so if players such as Murphy and Tejada simultaneously go cold the offense will suffer. With Tejada faltering both in the field and the plate, he is growing to be deadweight in the lineup. If the Mets become easy outs then the starting pitchers of opposing teams will go deeper into games.

Catcher John Buck, however, is having a strong start to the season. He delivered four RBIs against the Marlins on April 6 and has been critical to the offense in all five of the games he has played this year. But Kirk Nieuwenhuis had a fast start last season then quickly lost steam. The Mets need every hitter to contribute for its offense to be successful.

David Wright and Ike Davis had a couple of hits and Colin Cowgill delivered his second home run of the season in the bottom of the eighth inning. The Mets have been able to break through against bullpens but need to add more insurance runs earlier in the game against starting pitchers.

The starting pitching has given the Mets a chance to win each time, and if the young arms on the mound can continue to hold off opposing teams the onus will be on the Mets lineup to tally wins.