By Brad Kallet
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Facts are facts. Any way you slice it, the Mets have pitched spectacularly — from the front end of the rotation to the back end of the bullpen.
But, as we know, numbers can occasionally lie. Not this time. The eye test confirms that the stats are no fluke.
Jon Niese and Dillon Gee (when he was healthy) have been rock solid, Bartolo Colon has returned to form and Zack Wheeler — despite getting off to a disappointing start — showcased how good he can be on Friday night against the Phillies.
Daisuke Matsuzaka has done his job and youngster Rafael Montero has serious potential despite his less-than-stellar cup of coffee in Queens. Jacob deGrom has been utterly brilliant since being called up to the majors.
Oh yeah, there’s also that Matt Harvey guy. You know, the one who started the All-Star Game last year. He’s not so bad, himself.
And since ridding itself of aging, past-their-prime veterans Kyle Farnsworth and Jose Valverde, the bullpen has emerged with the likes of Carlos Torres, Jeurys Familia and Jenrry Mejia. All three have thrived, and the Amazin’s may have found their closer of the future. Yes, it’s a small sample size, but Mejia possesses the electric stuff and the makeup to be an elite closer.
All good things, right? Pitching wins championships, yes? Brighter times ahead for the Mets, eh?
Not so fast.
It’s fantastic that the Mets have a wealth of pitching. But do you know what else it is?
It’s infuriating because this team can’t hit, and night after night these remarkable pitching performances are going to waste. What an incredible shame.
The Mets are in every single game because of their pitching. Every single one. All you can ask from a pitcher is for him to give your team a chance to win. Well all the starting pitchers are keeping the games close, and all the relievers are protecting leads and giving the Mets a chance to come back from one- and two-run deficits.
The majority of teams in the league don’t have pitching staffs that keep them in the game night in and night out. But historically, clubs that have a great opportunity to win each game rack up victories. They make the playoffs. They contend for World Series titles.
What does New York have to show for all of the zeroes being thrown up on the scoreboard?
A 27-29 record. Fourth place in the National League East. Most likely a sixth consecutive losing season.
And that’s because this lineup is so anemic, so inept. This offense doesn’t manufacture runs. It doesn’t hit homers or steal bases. It doesn’t situational hit and it doesn’t put the ball in play nearly enough. David Wright, Daniel Murphy and Juan Lagares — the three best hitters on the team — will occasionally hit balls into the gaps, but they’re mostly singles hitters. You can’t rely on station-to-station baseball, especially when your long-ball threats — Curtis Granderson, Chris Young and Lucas Duda — have combined for just 18 home runs.
It also doesn’t help that Granderson and Young are hitting below .200. Duda has been hovering around .240 all season.
To make matters worse, there has been barely any production from the catcher and shortstop positions.
So sure, great pitching will help you beat weak team such as the Phillies, Pirates and Cubs. And it’s because of the pitching that the Mets aren’t horrible. The arms have, in fact, kept them respectable.
But with this lineup, they’ll simply never get over the hump. And what’s so maddening, so frustrating, is that with two more bats this could very well be a playoff team. There’s no two ways about it.
The sad truth is as clear as day. The season will play out as follows, assuming general manager Sandy Alderson doesn’t trade for an impact bat: The Mets will take two out of three from lowly teams and lose the majority of series against the rest of the league. This pitching has to be nearly perfect for New York to win, which is both unrealistic and unsustainable.
Have you seen what a project it is for this offense to score a run? It’s akin to launching the space shuttle. When this team falls behind early, the game is virtually over. Scoring more than four runs — when the game is nine innings as opposed to 14 — is a minor miracle.
So instead of losing games 6-1, the Mets will lose them 2-1. Wonderful.
Now under other circumstances, I’d be rather excited and optimistic about the foundation and the future of the franchise. But recent history can’t be ignored.
This organization has no position players that appear ready to come up and make a difference in the short-term. And Alderson has yet to spend big money — he re-invested this offseason as opposed to increasing payroll — on All-Star hitters, either via free agency or trade. After all of the hype heading into this past offseason, there’s no reason to believe that the GM will have the resources available to acquire bats this coming offseason. Or the one after that. Or the one after that.
So for now we’ll enjoy the brilliant pitching performances, the dominant displays that will have fans on their edges of their seats. That’s worth something — baseball is entertainment, after all.
But as long as this team remains one-dimensional, don’t expect a playoff appearance anytime soon.
Brad Kallet is an editor and columnist for CBSNewYork.com. He has written for TENNIS.com, MLB.com and SMASH Magazine, among others. You can follow him on Twitter @brad_kallet.
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