By Dave Mills
Hard to believe, but the Amazins are about to hit the quarter-season mark around the middle of Friday night's game against the Highlanders.
So, what have we learned thus far?
The 2007 Mets are far better at hitting southpaws than they were last season. Certainly, the addition of the oft injured Moises Alou hasn't hurt, unless you are Trainer Ray Ramirez and his staff. Reyes and Beltran have really produced from the right side and lefties Delgado and Green have hit lefties very well indeed. Damion Easley also looks like a lock to, at the very least, platoon against left-handers if and when Valentin returns.
The current staff of starters have really been effective. Although John Maine shows some signs of coming back to earth, he is reasonably effective even without his best stuff and not likely to get bombed. The Mets have won seven of Maine's eight starts, as he has averaged 6.33 innings with a 2.15 ERA. Glavine has been terrifically Tom-like and the Mets sport a 7-2 record when he takes the mound, with a smidgen over six innings per-start and a 3.31 ERA. Oliver Perez has been much better than most of the dubious doubters would like to admit. He too has averaged 6 innings per-start with an ERA of 3.00 and a winning record of 4-3, while recording a decision in each of his appearances. Frankly, Perez has only had one bad start (against the Phils) and his most recent effort was a gem. Jorge Sosa looks like a guy who is really taking some direction from the Mets pitching gurus and has delivered three masterful starts. El Duque has been effective when he can pitch and there is the rub. Perhaps 5th Starter is the proper role, since he will miss a start every 2-3 weeks?
For all those who were commenting here and calling The FAN, was Pelfrey really ready? Certainly not. And weren't the Pelfrey boosters out there the same voices always knocking Shawn Green and saying he was through. Where are you now?
Best off-season bargain pickup: Damion Easley has been a blessing from just about every angle, save his slightly below average fielding skills. Omar said he picked him up because he has some "pop." No kidding? But keep your eyes on Jorge Sosa, who may yet turn out to be an even better bargain acquisition.
Biggest surprise so far: Has to be Shawn Green, who seems to have an entirely new approach to hitting, with a level swing and going to the opposite field. Still a bit shaky in RF. Some might say Maine is the biggest surprise, but not if you were watching the last two months of 2006. The runner up in the biggest surprise category has to be Billy Wagner. Only one exciting close, perfect conversion, but few opportunities. Honorable mention: Has to be Paul LoDuca's throwing. What a turnaround? Looks like a footwork improvement instigated by Tom Nieto.
Injuries to the over 37 set are not too surprising. Valentin, Alou and El Duque need to hire Julio Franco as their strength, conditioning and diet coach. But all kidding aside, this is the penalty paid for so many older players on the roster. The trickle down is rushing a Carlos Gomez, not being able to put Endy in for defense late in the game and auditioning starters from New Orleans.
Could the Mets live without Endy Chavez, Ramon Castro and Pedro Feliciano? No way. This trio has been incredibly productive in limited duty. Smart players with some very good tools and instincts.
Biggest disappointment thus far: Has to be Carlos Delgado, who just seems to be lost at the plate and unable to put together 2-3 consecutive solid games. While he is hitting lefties, Carlos is a no-show against right-handers. Is the baby keeping him up at night?
The bullpen showed signs of brilliance in April, but has pulled back a bit in May. Heilman has been hot and cold with Schoeneweis and Sele similar. But Joe Smith, Feliciano and Wags have been mostly brilliant. Willie cannot really afford to have a guy like Burgos, who he can't trust in tight situations. Look for Guillermo Mota to replace Burgos and perhaps a trade that will send El Duque to the long role.
Would you deal Heilman, Sosa and Vargas for Carlos Zambrano? Probably a deal the Cubbies should make, but far more risky for the Mets without Mota, Sanchez and/or Padilla in the mix now. And with Sosa pitching so well, there is really no need to make that kind of move. By August, there is even a chance that Martinez, Mota, Sanchez and Padilla could be in play in NY or New Orleans. Of course, there is also a chance only one or two will be pitching and El Duque will be lame.
Come on Willie, give Wright a rest and David Newhan a start or two at 3B after the series with the Highlanders.
Carlos Gomez looks like a potential stud. Lots of tools. No matter how well Alou does the balance of the year, he will fight nagging injuries and miss time. With Gomez and Milledge in the fold there is really no reason to resign Alou. Platooning Green with Milledge in RF and Chavez with Gomez in LF will be most enjoyable to watch and deliver some rather intense speed and a host of options to the lineup. Also a good way for the kids to break in.
The Mets haven't gotten close to hitting their stride this season. They will soon and it should be an exciting sprint to the all-star break.