Where’s the Run Support: The Story of the 2013 Mets Season

By Michael Mandelkern

There is only one household name in the New York Mets lineup, and he is on the disabled list. The Mets offense was a far cry from potent even with David Wright hitting in the three spot, but now it is anemic. As of August 8 the Mets have a collective .237 batting average, .307 on-base percentage and .374 slugging percentage, 28th and 24th and 28th, respectively, in the major leagues.

David Wright carries the bulk of the Mets offense with the highest batting average, most extra-base hits and greatest slugging and on-base plus slugging percentages on the team. The Mets have only scored more than three runs once since Wright was injured on August 2. They particularly need to improve at Citi Field (25-32) where they have a meager .227 collective batting average. Daniel Murphy only hits .254 at home, a significant drop from him season batting average of .278.

One of their crucial shortcomings is an inability to drive in runners in scoring position. The Mets are able to set the table but do not eat most of the time, and this is no surprise considering their .242 batting average with runners in scoring position. Murphy, Wright and John Buck are the only everyday players that hit over .290 in that situation. The chance of scoring a run without one of them at the plate is meager. Marlon Byrd is an honorable mention at .277, but Ike Davis, Anthony Recker, Omar Quintanilla and Justin Turner are all abysmal in the clutch Some hitters, such as Juan Lagares and Eric Young, are decent with runners in scoring position, but too many hitters are practically automatic outs.

The biggest disappointment is Davis. He had tremendous success throughout the second half of last season. Overall in 2012 he batted .252 with a monstrous .602 slugging percentage and 38 extra-base hits in just 68 games hitting in the cleanup spot, with an outstanding rate of a home run every 10.3 at-bats. Davis is not even half the man he was in 2012 when hitting fourth in the batting order this year. He is hitting a paltry .157 and slugging .265 with just five extra-base hits in 26 games from the cleanup spot this season. He has not made many appearances fourth in the lineup because his production has disappeared. Marlon Byrd has filled some of Davis’s void but lacks that level raw power.

The underlying problem with the lack of offense is hard to fix at the moment because it is due to a lack of talent. A majority of the lineup would sit on the bench of a contending team. They often fail to executive fundamentals, such as advancing runners and taking advantage of sacrifice fly and RBI groundout opportunities. The Mets often allow opposing pitchers to last six innings or more and do not pounce when the starter is approaching a dangerously high pitch count. They ground into double plays to keep the opposing pitcher at a reasonable pitch count. The team’s severe lack of pop often results in several singles scattered over nine innings that only add up to a few runs. On top of a lack of power their situational hitting is poor.

Manager Terry Collins started the season with a patient approach, but that was too passive. Now the hitters are too aggressive and often easy outs. He is strict about lefty-righty matchups and shuffles the lineup like a deck of cards on a nearly daily basis. Collins’s approach crumbles in key situations at times because his in-game managing strategy is uniform and often more like checkers than chess.

Collins is unable to turn lemons into lemonade, but it is hard to believe that any other manager would. The majority of players try as hard as they can, but the team clearly needs sluggers, particularly in the outfield, and players who can get hits in key situations. The starting rotation has a bright future but the lineup will need to provide support when they are not perfect.

Strike Davis, Ike Vegas or Ike Davis?

By Michael Mandelkern

The 2013 New York Mets season is two-thirds of the way complete, but there are only a few grains left in Ike Davis’s hourglass. He has deteriorated from his explosive second half of the 2012 season but fans cannot forget about his enormous potential. On the other hand many people are fed up with him and cannot wait to see him go. This is the enigma of Davis, the man everyone hopes will produce but few have faith in anymore.

Davis suffered valley fever throughout the first half of the 2012 season and was on the verge of getting sent down to the minor leagues, but he made a U-turn in early June 2012 and still finished with 32 home runs and 90 RBI. His average was low at .227 but many still viewed him as the power first baseman of the future.

He began the 2013 season in good health to solidify his standing in the Mets core but got off to another slow start this season. The Mets demoted him on June 9. He found success in AAA Las Vegas and returned to the Mets on July 5, going 3-5 with 2 RBI against the Milwaukee Brewer but batted a meager .242 with one home run and 9 RBI in July. His .382 on-base percentage last month reflects his improved patience at the plate, but his power has vanished.

Davis has been anemic in unfavorable counts this season. He is 0-18 with 11 strikeouts and no walks on an 0-2 count and 2-41 on a 1-2 count. His overall batting average, on-base percentage and production numbers for the season are nothing to write home about either: .180/.279/.561 with six home runs and 25 RBI.

Regardless of his struggles, Davis should not be in a platoon with Josh Satin. Even though Satin hit .375 with a .500 on-base percentage in July he has spent the majority of his baseball career in the minor leagues for a reason. He cannot fill the void at first base in the long term. The Mets could have waited to call Davis back up when Satin fell back down to Earth. The “Hail Satin” craze is mainly out of frustration with Davis.

The Mets wanted to see improvement from Davis yet they cut down his playing time. However, Davis has started the majority of games since his return to the Mets and has had ample opportunity all season to prove his worth. It is his fault that he got sent down to the minors and cannot return to his mid-2012 form. But sitting Davis against tough lefty starters only allows Alderson to evaluate him as a platoon player.

The ambivalence on Davis reached a breaking point on July 31 against the Miami Marlins. The Mets were down 3-2 in the top of the eighth inning with two outs and David Wright on third base. Davis was up to bat and the Marlins bullpen countered with a lefty reliever. He was in the midst of a multi-hit game with an RBI-double, but Collins pinch-hit Satin. He flew out. It would be fair to assume that Davis would have struck out, and Satin has better statistics against left-handed pitchers, but only based on a small sample size.

The Mets are at fault for sending Davis back up prematurely and limiting his playing time, but it is entirely his fault that he is falling disturbingly short of expectations. Alderson considered him to be part of the core in early June, after another early slump, which underscores how difficult it is for the manager to let go of someone with 30 home run/100 RBI potential.

Davis has tweaked his swing and batting stance under pressure from the media and his coaches, but his underlying issues seem to be mental. He could still finish the season strong, but chances are Davis will be gone in a New York minute.