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Man of Letters Lowers E.R.A., Adds R.B.I.(s)

R.A. Dickey’s initial preparations [1] really paid off, eh? The knuckleballer’s erudition, real or imagined, reads even better when you can find his name among the National League leaders in Earned Run Average…which you now can. It wasn’t his earned runs allowed that were keeping him out until now, but rather his relatively few innings pitched, a symptom of the Mets wasting a quarter of the season on Oliver Perez, and Dickey thus not getting the ball until May 19.

R.A.’s now pitched 133 innings, which qualifies him for ERA (or, in his honor, E.R.A.) leadership [2] as you need at least one inning per every game your team has played for your number to count.

Dickey’s does: By giving up one earned run in seven-plus innings, it fell Sunday to 2.57, seventh-best in the N.L.

These are the National League starters ahead of Dickey in Earned Run Average:

Roy Halladay, Tim Hudson, Josh Johnson, Mat Latos, Adam Wainwright and Jaime Garcia.

These are the National League starters behind Dickey in Earned Run Average:

Everybody else.

What would have struck you as most surprising a hundred or so games ago?

• R.A. Dickey: Seventh in the league in E.R.A.

• R.A. Dickey: Five R.B.I. (or R.B.I.s; I can never decide), or more than the Mets’ Opening Day first baseman, center fielder and top lefty pinch-hitter accounted for combined.

• R.A. Dickey: Nine wins by the end of August, the ninth of them [3] finished without incident by reigning Mets closer Hisanori Takahashi.

It’s all pretty surprising from the perspective of the middle of May, but it’s kind of business as usual now. Well, maybe not the offensive production, but a good starter helps his own cause, and we all know by now that R.A. Dickey is a good starter.

We also know that even with the unlamented departures of Mike Jacobs, Gary Matthews and Frank Catalanotto (4 R.B.I. among them) well in our rearview mirror, the Mets still can’t hit much, which is why R.A.’s two-run double in the second was as heaven-sent as the man himself. R.A.’s two-bagger made it 2-0, en route to a four-run inning.

It was, here on the 29th day of the month, the Mets’ first four-run inning of August. The Mets had gone longer without scoring four runs inside of three outs (July 28) than they had gone without letting Oliver Perez pitch (August 1, with no end in sight).

R.A. Dickey also has more R.B.I./R.B.I.s than Perez and John Maine combined, but by now that’s not the least bit surprising.

A Mets fan gets excited by Dickey’s pitching, Dickey’s hitting, Dickey’s bearing, Dickey’s everything. A Mets fan can feel good that the current rotation has been, save for an occasional hiccup, as solid as any Mets rotation in ages.  Though we were burned by the awarding of “scholarships” to two pitchers who didn’t deserve automatic berths this April, I think we can allow ourselves some confidence about Dickey, Santana, Niese and (probably) Pelfrey as we inch toward 2011. No offense to Pat Misch — and lord knows none has been generated on his behalf — but our likely look at Jenrry Mejia in a starter’s role [4] in the next couple of weeks could provide us with a true glimpse of what awaits next April. All told, starting pitching could actually be a building block rather than a stumbling block for next season.

Next season…yup, that’s where it’s at these days. If we were just a little closer in the standings, I’d permit myself a day of delusion heading into Atlanta, picking up on Keith Hernandez’s insistence on a sweep at Turner Field. As ludicrous and impossible as that sounds, he implored them go take four in Georgia while the Mets were winning, the Braves were losing and our deficit seemed about to be cut to nine. Sweep four on the wings of Misch, Niese, Pelfrey and Santana and then we’re suddenly five out and that handful of dead-enders who are desperate to Gotta Believe might be proven not so crazy.

But then Atlanta came back on Florida [5], and reality, as it has done roughly every other day since the season-killing West Coast Trip concluded, set in. We’re a stubbornly .500 club that’s ten behind our division leader. We’re in fourth place. We’re eight behind for the Wild Card and in seventh place there. We’re without our shortstop again. We’re without our left fielder still. We’re the proud possessors of one four-run inning in August. We have one player who’s accumulated more than 57 R.B.I.(s). We have one player  with more than 15 homers. The guy who’s second on the team [6] hasn’t hit one out in over a month. The guy who’s third on the team [7] has been a Dodger for a week.

Every other day, it’s not so bad rooting for the Mets. That’s how .500 works. So savor these not-so-bad days. Savor R.A. Dickey’s E.R.A. and R.A. Dickey’s R.B.I.s and don’t let whatever happens the rest of the way dampen that initial enthusiasm.

As for the every-other-days that are not so good, you’ll be excused if you find yourself watching the Mets lose and muttering F.U. at them every now and then.


Congratulations are in order for Josh Thole, former member of Club Hessman [8]. By belting a Bud Norris delivery off the Pepsi Porch in the sixth, Thole increased his home run total to two, meaning there are now only 68 Mets who have hit exactly one home run.

Thole also became the 23rd Met to homer at Citi Field in its two seasons of existence; David Wright leads the team all-time in post-Shea Flushing power [9] with 13 round-trippers. Seven of the 23 have hit only one Citi Field home run, three of them this year — Thole, Santana, Jacobs — and four of them last year — Castillo, Evans, Church, Castro. The current active Met roster has totaled 55 Citi Field home runs between 2009 and 2010.

But it’s a great park for triples, I keep hearing.

As for current Club Hessman president Mike Hessman, he walloped one foul in the eighth before striking out, but can console himself with having collected his fifth Met hit Saturday night, a pinch-single off Brett Myers. Mike Hessman is now one of exactly 19 New York Mets to have registered exactly 5 New York Mets hits…but one of only two to have more extra-base hits than singles. His companion on the subcommittee? Let’s just say move over Ken Henderson, you have powerfully aberrational company [10].

While we’re busy passing out celebratory cigars, how about one for Luis Hernandez, proud papa to his very first New York Met base hit? Hernandez, whose 26-year existence on Earth had eluded me until Friday, became the 891st Met ever on Saturday night. On Sunday the temp infielder’s eighth-inning single off Fernando Abad made him the 665th Met with at least one safety to his credit.

Not quite three-quarters of our all-time roster has done at least once what Luis did — which means just over a quarter have not. Of the 226 Mets who never managed as much as an eighth-inning single off Fernando Abad, 201 were pitchers. R.A. Dickey’s offensive prowess notwithstanding, let’s be kind and leave them out of it —  even John Franco, who came to the plate 15 times in 14 seasons and never so much as successfully bunted a guy over.

That leaves 25 Met position players who never had a hit as a Met…but two of them, Joe Hietpas and Shane Halter, never came to bat. Hietpas was legendary Moonlight Graham material [11] (catching the last half-inning of the last game of 2004) and Halter…well, let’s just infer he never fully won Bobby Valentine’s trust. He pinch-ran five times and played defense twice in 1999, but never, as Bob Murphy might have said, got a stick.

Excepting those sparsely utilized fellows, 23 non-pitching Mets batted in their Met careers and came away with non-batting averages.

With Luis Hernandez leaving their ranks, the most recent .000 was etched into the books by 2008 Mets flotsam Abraham Nuñez: 0-for-2 in twilight of Willie Randolph. He did his worst in San Diego and wasn’t invited to fly to LaGuardia to swing and miss for the home folks.

The most allergic to success was quickly lapsed 1986 Mex insurance policy [12] Tim Corcoran. He went 0-for-6, but he did coax two walks, one of them, amazingly, intentional. Even more amazingly, the strategy worked. Corcoran took his base and the Padres’ Lance McCullers struck out pinch-hitter Darryl Strawberry and flied Lenny Dykstra to center. The Mets won anyway. It was 1986. The Mets always won anyway.

The most productive was Ike Hampton, who was presumably Liked a little by manager Yogi Berra for driving in a run on a sac fly among his four hitless 1972 at-bats. No other Ohfer Met position player drove in anybody.

And the most futile? A gent who played here 43 years ago but would probably be familiar to anyone who’s been paying Met attention in the past half-decade: recent coach Sandy Alomar, Sr., who established a record that appears safe…more safe than Sandy ever was in 1967.

Sandy came up 22 times and was retired 22 times. He struck out six times and grounded into a double play for poor measure. His ledger does, however, show one run scored as a Met: Alomar was pinch-running for Jerry Buchek and was driven home by Buddy Harrelson on April 20 — the day Tom Seaver earned his first major league win. Would love to tell you Sandy’s run was pivotal in sending Tom toward Cooperstown, but no, not really. Seaver was already out of the game and the Mets were already in the lead.

He may seem like nothing more than an answer to a trivia question you weren’t asking, yet on the day Luis Hernandez took a one-hit lead on Sandy Alomar, Sr., Sandy Alomar, Sr., made slightly bigger albeit completely unwanted news [13]. Alomar, manager of the Gulf Coast League Mets, and his pitching coach, Hector Berrios, were said to have engaged in “an on-the-field argument” at the end of a G.C.L. Mets game last week, and the Mets suspended them both for the rest of the season. Granted, there were only two games left in their season, but if Sandy is out, Sandy is out.

And if his Met playing dossier proves anything, Sandy Alomar, Sr., was unmatched at being out.