Before I begin, I’d like to share with you all an artistic rendering of the 7 game lead the Mets had over the Philadelphia Phillies as of September 12, 2007.
[kml_flashembed movie="http://youtube.com/v/FfoQsZa8F1c" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]
Sure, it’s subtle. But I didn’t want to bash you over the head with it.
Back in April, I wrote a post expressing doubt over the solid numbers that the Mets pitching staff (primarily the rotation) was able to post early on in the season. Basically, I thought that they were getting away with far too many mistakes and that the small number of runs they were giving up could not last unless they cut down on the walks and homeruns. But as July rolled around, not much had changed. The pitchers were still performing admirably, and I began to wonder if my projections were off – that they could continue to pitch at this level.
The lesson here? If it looks like a fluke, then chances are, it is a fluke.
The important numbers for the purposes of this post are ERA and Hits Per Nine Innings (H/9). For the first part of the season, those numbers were rising every month but were still digestible. Come July, the Mets were allowing 4.5 earned runs per game, which is getting to be too high. The numbers in August and September are downright abysmal. But here’s the funny thing – they’re not really allowing that many more walks or homeruns than they had been in the better months. Moreover, the strikeouts have been going up. The main culprit here, is the hits allowed. Suddenly, the Mets pitching has become incredibly hittable, especially since September 14th.
During this stretch of twelve games, opponents have posted a .311 AVG and an OPS of .869 (.380 OBP and .489 SLG), which basically means that the Mets have allowed hitters like Alejandro De Aza put up numbers on par with Mike Lowell. The pitchers have a collective ERA of 6.19 and a 1.66 WHIP. But there are those constants again – a good strikeout rate along with a not-too-terrible (but still a bit high) walk and homerun rate. The fact that they’ve allowed more flies than grounders isn’t much of a surprise either when you look at the names in the rotation. We can harp all we want on the terrible defense exhibited of late by the Mets (see the Runs Per Nine – there’s almost a one run difference with ERA), and under normal circumstances, we can criticize that more than anything. But we’re still talking about a pitching staff that’s allowed over six earned runs per game. Sure, they’ve been a bit unlucky as exhibited by a high BABiP, but it’s not so out of the norm that it ought to be highlighted.
During these last twelve games, relievers Aaron Heilman and Pedro Feliciano have combined for 19 appearances. LOOGY Scott Schoeneweis has appeared in eight games and Jorge Sosa and submariner-rookie Joe Smith in seven a piece. Closer Billy Wagner has been day-to-day with back spasms. Plain and simple, the relievers are exhausted and the organization doesn’t have the depth to fill the void. Combined with the fact that 1) Tom Glavine and El Duque are getting on in years; 2) Oliver Perez is always a crapshoot 3) John Maine was defying logic all season long by putting up numbers that rationale would deem improbable; and you have the current situation that the Mets find themselves in – having blown a seven game lead over a span of seventeen days. And this is WITH Pedro Martinez, who has been better in his first five starts than I could have hoped for following surgery.
This is not to say that I don’t think that the Mets are making the postseason, but I’d be lying if I said I feel as secure saying that as I did two weeks ago when it seemed all but a certainty. Starting tonight, the Mets have three games left in the regular season. If the Mets and Phils end up tied, there will be a one-game playoff between the two in Philadelphia (as dictated by a coin toss earlier in the year).
Things should be a lot of fun, baseball fans.