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Coleman: Pitching Health Tops Mets’ List Of Second Half Question Marks

Dillon Gee (credit: Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Dillon Gee (credit: Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

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By Ed Coleman
» More Columns

For those Mets fans who thought their injury plagued first-half team could remain injury free and get healthier in the second-half, think again.  Those thoughts were dispelled quickly on Tuesday when starting pitcher Dillon Gee was diagnosed with a blood clot in an artery in his pitching shoulder and placed on the D.L.

Gee’s absence is no small thing at the moment.  Yes, he’s probably the 5th starter and likely a stopgap before the arrival of Wheeler – Harvey – Familia etc., but he just picked up his 6th win with 8 innings of one-run ball, and has logged the second most innings (109 2/3) behind R.A. Dickey in his 17 starts amongst starters.

For now, Miguel Batista  –  who already has started four games  –  will take Gee’s spot in the rotation, with Harvey on the horizon.  Gee’s recuperation timetable is undetermined at this time, which makes it more difficult to project.  Last season, Bobby Parnell developed a numbness/tingling issue in the middle finger of his pitching hand.  It was judged to be not that serious, Parnell was put on blood thinners, yet he was still out a month.  Chris Young will now get the start on Friday in Atlanta, followed by Dickey on Saturday and either Johan Santana or Jon Niese on Sunday, depending on the status of Santana’s minor ankle injury.  Whomever doesn’t pitch Sunday will go on Tuesday in Washington after an off-day Monday.  The Mets could come back with Young on Wednesday and not need a 5th starter until Saturday (July 21) against the Dodgers at CitiField, but it’s more likely they’ll pitch Batista on Wednesday against the Nationals and give everyone an extra day of rest.

So, can one of the biggest surprise teams in the first half (46-40) continue to surprise moving towards the finish line?  Well, they need some things to change  –  and some to remain the same.

….. David Wright has to continue to lead the way.  Wright had a phenomenal first half  –  .351 BA  –  11 HR  –  59 RBI (19 of them go-ahead RBI)  –  27 doubles and 40 extra-base hits  –  a .441 OBP  –  more walks (50) than strikeouts (47)  –  and hit .424 with RISP and two outs, the best mark in the N.L.  Those are tough numbers to maintain, but Wright looks to be having one of those magical years.

….. The bullpen has to get better.  A major league worst 4.94 ERA will eventually undermine the terrific starting pitching that the Mets have been fortunate to receive thus far.  Will Frank Francisco be better in the second half after returning from his oblique injury?  Will Bobby Parnell’s maturity and increased effectiveness continue?  Will there be help arriving from the minors or outside the organization?  Stay tuned.

….. They must hit lefties better.  The Mets have a lefty-prevalent lineup that has produced just a 12-20 ledger when the opposing team starts a southpaw.  If the real Jason Bay shows up, that might help.

….. Can the Mets continue to show patience at the plate?  This is a team that has seen the most pitches in the National League thus far this season, putting a strain on opposing pitchers, the starters in particular.  Can that continue?  In due time, we’ll see.  Patience.

….. Lucas Duda is tied for the team lead in HR’s with 12 (Ike Davis, Scott Hairston).  But Duda has hit just 2 of those homers in his last 27 games.  They need more consistent power from their young right-fielder

….. Will the real Ike Davis stand up?  It’s amazing what Davis has gotten out of his hits  –  54 hits, 49 RBI.  That’s what happens when 6 of your 12 HR are 3-run shots and a 7th is a grand slam.  Over his last 25 games, Davis hit .294 with 7 HR and 28 RBI.  The Mets will take more of that.

….. Is Daniel Murphy’s slump done?  Murphy saw his average dip into the .270’s but finished the break on a tear, batting .465 over his last 10 starts.  He also knocked in 15 runs in his last 11 games.

….. Ruben Tejada must stay healthy.  Tejada went down on May 6 with a quad strain and didn’t return until June 24.  Tejada brings a steadiness to the infield and a solid and productive bat to the lineup.  He’s hitting .362 since his return from the D.L. with 12 runs scored in 14 games.  Overall, Tejada is batting .325 with 12 RBI in 41 games  –  during his absence (43 games), Met shortstops hit .248 with 11 RBI.  Tejada also hits lefties to the tune of .382.

….. Can the wild cards continue to rake.  In particular, Scott Hairston and Jordany Valdespin.  In 185 AB, Hairston has 46 hits  –  12 HR. 11 doubles and 2 triples that have produced 34 RBI.  And Valdespin has just 70 AB and 18 hits  –  4 HR, 5 doubles and 1 triple good for 14 RBI.  Nice production if you can keep it up.

….. Will the starting pitching hold up in the second half?  When Gee beat the Cubs 3-1 last Saturday, it was the Mets’ major league-best 23rd game holding an opponent to 1 run or less.  The combination of the injury to Gee, the subsequent tweaking of the rotation and a tough early schedule after the All-Star break will provide some early answers.

….. Can the 2-out magic continue?  Logic would tell you probably not, but it’s been a huge part of the Mets’ success so far.  The Mets have scored 187 two-out runs, the most in the majors.  They’re hitting .275 with two outs  –  the 3rd highest average in baseball  –  and it increases to .287 with RISP and two outs  –  the 2nd highest average in the majors.

That’s a lot of factors to consider, and there are others as well, but it’s not like every other team doesn’t have questions to sort out as well.  The Mets are in a good spot after a solid first half.  They as players are not surprised where they are.  We’ll see if there are more surprises to come beginning very shortly.

C U soon
Eddie C.