This Website use Cookies OK

Read more Baseball News

We are about to find out if the Mets are for real


We are about to find out if this extraordinary 15-2 Mets surge into postseason contention is the real deal or a cruel midsummer tease.

The schedule, with 12 of their next 15 games against division-leading teams, including six against the NL East-leading Braves, will tell the tale, but there is no denying this is a dramatically improved Mets team that was 46-54 through the first 100 games, with about the worst bullpen in baseball and a lineup that struggled for runs because of an empty hole in the No. 3 spot named Robinson Cano. What’s most interesting about this Mets turnaround is that it was accomplished without any notable contributions from Cano or Edwin Diaz, the principals in Brodie Van Wagnenen’s signature off-season trade.

A torn hamstring has mercifully ended Cano’s season while Diaz, a principal culprit in Sunday’s streak-breaking loss to the Nationals with a two-run ninth-inning homer to Victor Robles, also surrendered homers in the only two saves he recorded during the 15-2 run. Mickey Callaway can say all he wants – as he did Sunday – that Diaz “will continue to get big outs for us,” but the hard truth is he’s gotten very few of them since he started developing New York-itis at the end of May. Right now, Diaz needs to disappear, at least from high leverage situations, and maybe take some time to sit at the knee of Phil Regan for some soothing, reinforcing counseling.

And speaking of the 82-year-old Regan, his hiring as pitching coach to replace the respected Dave Eiland, June 20, roundly ridiculed by the media at the time, is now looking like the most inspired move of the embattled GM’s administration. The figures don’t lie: Under Regan, Mets starters’ ERA is the best in baseball. From Opening Day to July 24, the Met starters’ ERA was 4.27 and they averaged 5.67 innings per start. Since then, it’s 2.51 with 6.33 innings per start. Moreover, the woebegone bullpen, which had a 5.33 ERA up until July 24, averaging 4.25 walks per game, has pitched to a 3.69 ERA with 3.88 walks per game since July 24.

New York Mets' Edwin Diaz heads to the dugout after pitching to the Detroit Tigers in May. (Julio Cortez/AP)

There are a lot of reasons for this. As minor-league pitching coach, Regan had already worked with most of the Mets’ pitchers and they take to his calm bedside manner. There is probably no one in the game who knows more about pitching than Phil Regan and the Mets pitchers seem to respect that. “He’s seen all different kinds of pitchers, different styles, and he breaks it down for you, make it simple, so you don’t have to think about it too much,” Zack Wheeler said recently.

Regan has also made a few minor mechanics adjustments with Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard, but it may just be the Mets’ starters are finally pitching up to their potential because they are no longer pitching under the cloud of being traded. If we’re going to criticize Van Wagenen for so many of his off-season moves that didn’t pan out, we also have to give him credit for holding firm at the trading deadline, resisting the temptation to trade Syndergaard and Wheeler, in particular, for parcels of prospects, and electing to go for it despite the Mets’ under .500 record. That was a vote of confidence for his starters – and for the whole team – and you have to agree they’ve responded.

As for the bullpen, with Diaz failing, it was hard to imagine how the Mets could mount any serious challenge without the ability to close out games. But it may be they’ve found a savior in Seth Lugo, who’s been nothing short of phenomenal during this midsummer surge. Lugo retired 28 consecutive batters from July 21-August 10 to tie the longest streak in history by a Mets reliever and from July 2-August 5 he held opponents hitless over 35 at-bats until yielding a homer to Washington’s Anthony Rendon on August 10.

Of course, you can’t overlook another factor in the improvement of the Mets pitchers – which is they’re getting more runs. After averaging 4.68 runs per game from Opening Day to July 24, the Mets are averaging 5.64 since. A lot of that has to do with Callaway inserting Michael Conforto into the 3 hole, where he’s thrived, slashing .333/427/734 with 17 RBI in the last 17 games, and J.D. Davis — Van Wagenen’s best acquisition by far — into the lineup as the everyday left fielder. In the last 16 games, he’s slashed .392/.459/.804 with six doubles and five homers.

Imagine, a month ago Met fans were counting down the days ‘til Callaway was fired. That may still be the case come September 1. But if the Mets are able to continue this surge through the gauntlet of these next 15 games, we might then have to start thinking of Callaway as a candidate for —gulp — manager of the year! What a season.