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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Do These Rags Make Me Look Pathetic?

It really is true: the 2016 Mets are your 2015 Mets redux.

They pitch great, except for brief but fatal bouts of pitching lousy, and they hit something very south of great. Their not-hitting isn’t the usual baseball fan’s not-hitting where one grumbles about a player or two who can’t seem to come through. The Mets feature the kind of not-hitting where, say, a team goes 3 for 23 with runners in scoring position over a two-day stretch, with one of the three successes getting an asterisk because it didn’t score a run.

The problem for this year’s Mets, beyond that? It’s that last year’s Mets August-October offensive reboot, which turned a frustrating also-run club into league champions, was powered by crazy eruptions from two guys. One of those guys, Yoenis Cespedes, isn’t a trade candidate because he’s already here, or at least three limbs of his are. The other, Daniel Murphy, isn’t a trade candidate because he’s a Washington National and something tells me they aren’t giving him back.

I started with the offense because it’s been the real killer the last couple of days. Yes, Jeurys Familia has gagged two straight save opportunities — on Thursday the top of the ninth was a slow-motion car crash that took 26 excruciating minutes, as timed in disbelief by my pal Steve.

Up until then it had been a nice day in the park. I lucked into marvelous seats with old friends Steve and Brian, thanks to the kindness of a friend of a friend, Chris. We commiserated about previous Met woes, argued good-naturedly about shifts and replay and arm injuries, then found our seats just on the right side of the line between shadow and a whole lot of sun. A row ahead of us, Citi Field was a cauldron; where we sat, it was sticky and hot but just fine if you didn’t move around too energetically. The Mets took a skinny 1-0 lead against the Rockies and seemed poised to hold it. At least until the car skidded and we all braced for impact.

There was some bad luck involved for Familia — a Daniel Descalso bunt spun to a stop in fair territory as Rene Rivera glowered over it and a bat-breaking cue shot by Cristhian Adames was misplayed by James Loney — but there were also an alarming number of high non-sinkers, a wild pitch and the sight of a normally automatic closer wandering through the deep dark woods.

But still. If the Mets do something — anything! — with a few more of those 20 RISP failures over the last two days, Familia either comes in with a cushion or doesn’t need to be called on at all. The Mets have a great pitching staff, but day after day the bats force the pitchers to be perfect, not merely great.

I said at the beginning that the 2016 Mets sure look like the 2015 Mets, but it feels like there aren’t enough tears in Wilmer Flores‘s eyes to salvage this season. So, having said that, let me try and convince myself that I’m being way too pessimistic.

Well, here’s some evidence from Jesse Spector. The Mets are hitting a horrid .204 with RISP, far below their not particularly robust .238 batting average overall. That’s outlier enough to seem like a misprint: overall, MLB teams are hitting .255 and .257 with runners in scoring position.

So what’s wrong with the Mets’ hitters?

LACK OF GUTS, bellow the WFAN callers, but let’s not be those guys. (Ever.)

An alternate explanation is buzzard’s luck: the Mets are hitting .279 on balls in play, last in the majors. (The norm’s around .300.) Get that worm to turn, and the Mets could look a whole lot better without an infusion of new personnel that likely isn’t coming anyway. From that foundation, you can let yourself dream a little: Lucas Duda comes back, Travis d’Arnaud doesn’t go away, Michael Conforto relaxes and hits like he can. The division’s probably out of reach — Washington’s BABIP is just a tick higher than the Mets’ — but grab a wild-card slot and the Mets are immediately the team no one wants to play.

Well, maybe. But it also could be that 2015 was the outlier — the team in offensive rags that became a slugging Cinderella, only to have midnight arrive with a couple of dances left. The story of 2016 isn’t finished yet, but maybe this team never gets to the ball in the first place.

16 comments to Do These Rags Make Me Look Pathetic?

  • Jacobs27

    I hear you, Jason. Some of it has got to be on the hitters pressing at this point, right? Bases loaded nobody out and on a 2-0 count Johnson swings at a pitcher’s pitch for a weak ground ball. Granderson goes after a slider down and in on 3-2 that he never comes close to. Flores pops up a pitch shoulder-high. Sometimes you make your own bad BABIP.

  • What is Kevin Long teaching these guys? Sure, they’re professional athletes, but if the team is not hitting what is the hitting coach accomplishing?

  • Patrick

    Perhaps it’s the WFAN in me, but I’m tempted to say that the Mets should be sellers at the deadline. Not that they have much to sell, but while they are offensively spinning their wheels, I’m afraid that Michael Conforto’s growth is being stunted by lack of playing time. Perhaps it’s also time to see whether Dilson Herrera is the real deal, or if we should stop planning our infield around his future forecast. And with another injury to Lagares, maybe we should see what an outfield of Cespedes, Nimmo and Conforto can do for an extended period. This means starting these guys every day, not the perma-platoon which worked for us last year. Better now than April. This could mean benching Granderson and Walker, which might sound nuts, given how much they’re being paid, but this team is just flat out not hitting. An internal shakeup looks more realistic than a reenactment of 2015’s deadline deals. So I think all of these “re-tool for next year” thoughts, but then I realize that a team built on young pitching like ours can’t count on any of those pitchers being healthy next year. The 2017 rotation is likely to be just as hobbled as the 2016 version. We could be re-tooling for a future that’s just as challenging.

    At least we have Mike Piazza back for a weekend. I’ve heard that Familia is going to wear number 49 all weekend to make Mike feel at home.

  • Greg Mitchell

    Rather than repeat, see many comments in yesterday’s post after the loss hitting Terry on a number of matters, including ludicrous use of wasted Familia after (once again!) declaring that he wouldn’t be used this day.

    Sandy has sat on his hands, and it’s almost wish fulfillment–you don’t really want to be a buyer, so you encourage a poor run-up to the trade deadline so you don’t really have to do anything major, and perhaps could even be a seller! At this point do you really WANT to go all-in and give up more young players?

    Another separate point: I’ve seen people fawning over Loney’s fielding with Mets. Yesterday’s boot (not the first in a key spot) was sixth in just 48 games for the Mets. That would be 18 projected for the year, a horrific number for a firstbaseman. Yes, errors aren’t everything, but please, stop with the over-the-top praise for him in the field. His hitting has been big help, however.

  • Seth

    Hey, you know what? I’m tired of hearing about the bad luck and how it just has to even out eventually. The sample size is no longer small.

  • kdbart

    Curtis Granderson RISP 2015, .297. Curtis Granderson RISP 2016, .148.

    Quite the difference!!!!

  • Greg Mitchell

    The other problem for the Mets this year–as I pointed out more than a month ago–is that most of their chief competitors for playoffs spots had top prospects (sometimes more than one) just coming up or about to come up while the Mets had none (unless Nimmo or Herrera exploded). This has proven true–see the Nats promoting Trea Turner who is now starting CF and tearing it up. And before you say, the Mets will get injured players back…Duda? And Wright ain’t coming back, and neither is Harvey, and are you really counting on Wheeler? Others teams also have made or seemed poised to make big deals. Will the Mets? And do you really think Noah and Matz can pitch strong until October? And we are already one starter short. Then you have Familia and Reed on pace to pitch 80 games–and that’s BEFORE the usual mucho use in September.

  • Daniel Hall

    My employers sure like the Mets. I’ve been on holidays for a week, saw six straight games, and can’t wait to get back to work on Monday. The Cardinals series was awful. Yesterday I could have thrown stuff at them. Four months of no-fun baseball. Skipping the rest of the weekend now, it’s just too frustrating. When is it the right time to tell fails like Walker, Granderson, De Aza, and Johnson to just not come to the park anymore? Stay at home. Go fishing. Go on a trip. Visit monasteries in Thailand. Whatever. Just don’t come and dress in the uniform anymore. You’re awful. Don’t even watch the game, at home, on TV. If you watch it on TV, in streetclothes, you’re still pulling the team down.

    Granderson would be the worst. $60M for three years of barely beating the league average, with one more year to endure. People point out that he has 18-or-what leadoff home runs. So what? That’s one run at a time, a.k.a. the Mets’ daily output. You can do it either with the leadoff jack or wait for the other team to make an error and balk the guy around. Neither wins games. Months ago we lamented that all our runs are scored with the long ball. Too bad that they don’t even hit those anymore. These Mets could bat in the bottom of the ninth of a 1-1 game, bases loaded, nobody out, 3-0 count to whomever, and the other guy BALKS, and they STILL would somehow manage not to win …! As Wilmer trots home from third base, jubilantly, the ground suddenly opens and he’s swallowed by a cavern right under the third base line. This is not a wild fantasy with this team!

    So apparently people think Granderson hits for power? Why doesn’t he bat fourth then? Why does James Loney, whom the Mets literally picked out of a dumpster, and who has shown next to no power, bat cleanup? It’s not that Granderson gets on base or anything. Why does he bat first or second? And it’s not like he’s batting first or second because there were injuries and now – no! He’s batted first for most of his tenure here, and his .340 OBP is not very inspriring. Truth be told, building a sound lineup with the leftovers on the roster is a job I would not dig, but come on… Put Granderson in the #4 hole behind Cespedes, giving that poor sod some sort of protection because so far he doesn’t have ANY, because other teams laugh loudly about Loney, and every once in a while, hey, he might whack his weekly homer with a guy on base that reached on an error or was hit in the back foot. That’s TWO runs in ONE swipe – that would already be progress!

    The only way I can possibly think of for this team to get any worse right now (other than random body parts falling off Cespedes, which might well still happen), would be a deadline trade for Chase Ugly.

    Also, what’s the point where “bad luck” becomes “inherently inept”? Four-thousand plate appearances? They had runners on second and third in the seventh inning, and nobody out, and I KNEW they would not score. I just knew it.

    Yeah, I think I have enough Mets baseball for a few days.

  • Matt in Richmond

    Once again we are in the territory of needing reminding that your team is not as good as it looks when it’s winning and not as bad as it looks when it’s losing. This has undoubtedly been a brutal week but the reality is we are a whisper away from being 4-0. As much as some of you want to be deniers, luck is a major ingredient in baseball, particularly 1 run games which these have seemingly all been lately. I’m not saying it’s just automatically going to turn around, but it’s ridiculous to fall to pieces. And sending in Familia last night was absolutely the right move. He gave up a routine grounder to short an absolutely freaky bunt and a broken bat bouncer. He was throwing fine and just got victimized by bad luck.

  • Pete In Iowa

    For those who think it’s a merely matter of our BABIP, avg with RISP, or luck in general, turning around to somewhat more “normal” levels, below is what I wrote on this site on June 29, after another excruciating Mets loss:
    “While I agree to a small degree that they should ascend to the mean, I’m afraid their collective approach at the plate will continue to hold them back. I’ve been a fan (of baseball in general and the Mets in particular) for 5 decades now and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a lineup which so consistently swings at bad pitches. And I mean horrible pitches that are never a strike anywhere on their trajectory to the plate. And it’s not just limited to one or two hitters – it’s all of them. We can’t continue to give away outs so consistently in this manner and especially when runners are aboard.”
    It’s been a month and this has not changed.
    Last week, after the Mets BEAT the Cubs @ Wrigley, I glumly looked at my wife and said, “I’ll be pleasantly surprised if the Mets make the post-season this year.”
    Having said that, I still ascribe to what Andy told Red in The Shawshank Redemption: “Remember, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”
    That and my $100 ticket at the Excaliber future book for the Mets to win the World Series this year at 14-1.

  • Jacobs27

    There’s bad luck and bad luck. It’s one thing if players are generally executing and just not getting results. Happens. Then there’s the Mets line up. Does not execute. That’s also bad luck in a sense, maybe they are theoretically capable of better execution, but it’s much less likely to change.

  • Dave

    BABIP be dammed…that’s a stat that lets hitters off the hook for striking out, and there’s way too much of that too (and imagine how much worse it would be had Wright and Duda been healthy). The thing that drives me nuts the most is when people point to a similar W-L record this time last year…as if teams are just capable of pressing the repeat button and doing the previous year all over again.

    Never say never I suppose, but I’m presuming that our October schedules will be open. 2017 team needs to look pretty different.

  • Matt in Richmond

    So I guess for some of you, the only acceptable way this season could have played out would have been 115 win pace and double digit division lead coast to coast. Come on now! There was always going to be adversity, and unfortunately we’ve suffered more than our fair share, particularly when it comes to injuries. I choose to look at the fact that we are very much in contention DESPITE the crazy amount of injuries and record low BARISP as reasons to be proud and optimistic. Even if you don’t subscribe to that, you can’t argue with the fact that we are over .500 which in and of itself has been a rare thing in recent years. I truly don’t understand the level of vitriol, pessimism and frankly cowardice.

  • eric1973

    Dumb luck, Buzzard’s luck, etc.

    Does that mean that when anybody wins (or loses, for that matter), that it’s all due to luck, whether good or bad?

    Are the ’69 and ’86 Mets a product of good luck, and all the other years in Met history a product of bad luck?

    Is everything simply pre-determined, where nothing can change the result?

    Or can a fairly talented team, which this team is, actually show some grit and determination and change the result that ‘bad luck’ would provide? In other words, is there such a thing as a ‘will to win’ that can change a pre-determined result?

    Please have your papers on my desk by tomorrow morning at 9am.

  • Greg Mitchell

    Then there’s the question of whether a manager gets the most out of the team–on the field, not just in the clubhouse.

  • Matt in Richmond

    To attempt to answer your question eric1973 I would say that the larger the sample size the less luck is involved, and conversely the smaller the sample size the more luck is involved. My knowledge of the 69 team is fairly limited although if I understand correctly they came from way back to win the NL and then beat a heavily favored Oriole team to win the series. So they probably were a bit lucky. The 1986 team was obviously one of the most talented and dominant teams of all time. You don’t win 100+ games and coast to the division crown on luck…but they easily could have lost at several points during the playoff run (obviously).

    This Met team is clearly not a dominant team. They are talented enough to contend, but they will need to pick up their play AND have their luck improve. It’s not an either/or proposition. Nearly every player is performing below their career/expected level right now in terms of hitting with runners on base. The most logical explanation for that is fluke/circumstance/luck unless you want to blame Kevin Long which I believe would just be convenient scapegoating.

    I can’t tell you how many games the Mets have lost this year where the opponent scored the winning run(s) on seeing eye grounders, broken bat bloops or similarly fluky hits while the Mets made numerous outs where the ball was hit right on the screws. Yes, sometimes it’s just bad hitting, but sometimes it’s dumb luck too. Let’s hope we have some better play AND better luck the next 55 or so games.