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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 [1], isn’t a trade candidate because he’s already here, or at least three limbs of his are. The other, Daniel Murphy [2], 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 [3] has gagged two straight [4] 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 [5].

There was some bad luck involved for Familia — a Daniel Descalso [6] bunt spun to a stop in fair territory as Rene Rivera [7] glowered over it and a bat-breaking cue shot by Cristhian Adames [8] was misplayed by James Loney [9] — 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 [10]‘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 [11] 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 [12] comes back, Travis d’Arnaud [13] doesn’t go away, Michael Conforto [14] 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.