Why the Mets came up short

Posted on August 16, 2010 by

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Much has been made recently about how the Mets have not won a game this season when trailing in the ninth inning. But the Mets have never been particularly good in this department. Here are the team wins in this category the last five times the club made the playoffs:

2006 – 3
2000 – 3
1999 – 4
1988 – 4
1986 – 2

I think it is pretty clear the reason the 2010 Mets will not make the playoffs has almost nothing to do with ninth-inning comeback wins.

Instead, we will remember the dismal offense as this year’s downfall. We will recall the complete lack of production from second base, the worse-than-anyone-expected output from Jeff Francoeur, the disappointing seasons from Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes as they returned from injuries and the frightening lack of power from Jason Bay.

By now, we have come to expect the Mets to struggle with the bases loaded. You have to go back to 2006 to find a Mets team that had an OPS over .700 with the bases juiced. This year the MLB average with the sacks full is .286/.320/.448 while the Mets check in with a .208/.227/.281 line. It makes a fellow long for the halcyon days of 2009, when the team posted a .220/.250/.348 mark with the bases drunk.

But this year the problem extends from bases loaded to any situation with runners in scoring position. After posting an OPS of .763 with RISP last year playing with a Quadruple-A roster, the Mets have a .737 mark this season. Among players with 50 or more PAs with RISP, the three best are Angel Pagan (.994 OPS), David Wright (.839) and Bay (.826) while the three worst are Rod Barajas (.724), Francoeur (.605) and Luis Castillo (.543).

Chris Carter (1.156) and Josh Thole (1.152) have been very productive with RISP in small samples. On the flip side of the coin, Carlos Beltran (.630) and Ruben Tejada (.358) have not.

Since the All-Star break, the problem has extended further to just getting anyone on base. The Mets have posted just a .597 OPS overall in the second half. Their leading hitter in the category was Jesus Feliciano, who had an .800 OPS in 10 games and was sent to the minors so that Fernando Martinez could lose much-needed at-bats by sitting on the bench. Wright’s OPS since the break is .591 but that still beats Francoeur (.514) and Bay (.510).

And Mets pitchers have gone 5-55 here in the second half

The frustrating thing is there is very little to be done. Here are pertinent marks with RISP for key Mets players

Player	    Lifetime	         2010

Bay	        .924	         .826

Beltran	        .915	         .630

Castillo	.700	         .543

Francoeur	.755	         .605

Reyes  	        .830	         .756

Wright	        .878	         .839

Those six players combine to make $55 million this season. When the stars don’t produce, what options do you have? Francoeur and Castillo have already been benched while Bay is on the DL. Reyes and Wright have no reasonable replacements.

Only Carlos Beltran makes sense to bench. A defensible move at this point would be to move Pagan back to center and install Carter as the team’s left fielder. But it is hard to blame Jerry Manuel for not taking out Beltran, hoping that he can regain form after shaking off the rust.

Hopefully losing a series at home to a Phillies squad playing without Ryan Howard and Chase Utley will convince the Mets that the 2010 season is over in terms of making a playoff push. The Mets need to play the people who hope to contribute to the 2011 squad and not worry about any hurt feelings from the proven veterans.

If Martinez and Tejada are in the majors, they need to play, regardless of how much Castillo and Francoeur may pout. There are serious questions if either belongs on a major league roster right now but hopefully we can all agree that riding the pine does neither of them any good at this point in their development.

Martinez and Tejada played their last game in the minors on August 5th. Since then the Bisons have played nine games and they still have 24 games left on the schedule. If Martinez played all 33 games (always a risky proposition given his health) he might have amassed 132 PA in that span. So far in the majors he has accumulated 17.

While the offense takes the lion share of the blame for the Mets not making the playoffs this season, Manuel has not helped out the cause, either. His curious handling of the roster has been well documented.

Ultimately, I will remember 2010 as the year that the offense and the manager kept us from the playoffs.

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Posted in: Perspectives