The All Star Break provides time to reflect on the first half of the season and look ahead to the road ahead. The first half contained an expected strong start and a dismal June and July. Injuries, lack luster play and veterans succumbing to old age can explain most of it; to explore any deeper would only cause heartache. The only good news from the first half is that itâ€™s over. The Mets got through a hellish schedule of Detroit, Oakland, Twins and the Yankees twice in inter-league play and theyâ€™re still in first place. Letâ€™s take a look at whatâ€™s in store for 2007.
The Mets Record at the break: NYM (48-39) .552
The Mets have 28 games left on the schedule against teams with winning records
The Padres as the lone winner the Mets have yet to face:
- SD 6 (49-38) .563 Mets Record against: 0-0
- MIL 3 (49-39) .557 Mets Record against: 2-1
- LAD 7 (49-40) .551 Mets Record against: 0-3
- ATL 9 (47-42) .528 Mets Record against: 3-6
- CHC 3 (44-43) .506 Mets Record against: 3-1
San Diego is certainly a very solid team along with the Dodgers. The 0-3 record is a little deceiving against Los Angles as the Mets faced them in only one series in the midst of the first halfâ€™s low point. Milwaukee is not for real and the Cubs, well theyâ€™re the Cubs, enough said. The most troubling aspect is theyâ€™re apparent inability to compete with Atlanta, the perennial spoiler of Mets seasons in recent years. The nine games against the Braves are the most potentially lethal to the Mets playoff hopes.
The Mets have 7 games left against teams with a .500 record
- PHI 7 (44-44) .500 Mets Record against 7-4
The Mets have superior match-ups against Philadelphia and should find away to beat them in most of these games. Even in the middle of a horrid stretch the Mets were able to take 3 of four against the Phils. Donâ€™t misunderstand, the Phillies are a good team, but with their bullpen and lack of closer, Jimmy Rollinsâ€™ “team to beat” should be just that; the team the Mets beat.
Finally some encouraging news
The Mets have 40 games left against teams with losing records
- WSH 13 (36-52) .409 Mets Record against: 3-2
- CIN 7 (36-52) .409 Mets Record against: 0-0
- HOU 3 (39-50) .438 Mets Record against: 2-2
- PIT 6 (40-48) .455 Mets Record against: 0-0
- STL 1 (40-45) .471 Mets Record against: 5-0
- FLA 10 (42-47) .472 Mets Record against: 6-2
26 games with the Nationals, Reds and Pirates should put a optimistic smile on any Mets fanâ€™s mug. More games with the Nationals is never a bad thing. The makeup game with St. Louis is a moot point. The sole worry spot in the group is Florida. Though the Mets have put up a 6-2 record against the Fish in the first half, the Marlins are a young, yet talented team. When Florida figures it out, they are going to be dangerous.
A Look Within
With the All Star game in the rear view mirror, the next mile marker on the highway of the 2007 season of course is the trading deadline. Right now the Mets face some question marks approaching July 31st. Hereâ€™s a look at the team broken down by positions:
The infield is set, with the possible exception of second base, though to upgrade there would be a frivolous luxury. A combination of Valentin, Easley and Gotay is more than capable with Gotay having a tremendous upside. Wright and Reyes: thereâ€™s never anything wrong with that. If Delgado can break out of this three month slump, he just might catch fire and show us that monster left-handed bat feared league wide.
The injury to Oliver Perez should be a minor inconvenience, namely the inconvenience, of watching another Dave Williams start before Ollie returns. Joking aside, Williams is an important piece to a rotation with two forty year olds at its front end. If Williams can put his horrid debut behind him, and regain his 2006 form, which was satisfactory to good, he may end up making key starts should El Duque and Glavine show their age. Omar Minaya should keep an eye out for a potential starter in case an absolute steal falls in the Mets lap. Barring that, the Mets should opt to stick with the current talent and, as they did last year, patching together a rotation using Pelfrey, Williams and Vargas as the fifth day starter and wait for Sosa or Martinez to be healthy, though Pedroâ€™s return is far from certain. It could be worse at least Jose Lima isnâ€™t in the mix.
The pen has appeared to be shaky at times in June and July, though the same could be said about every Met in those months. Like everyone else in the league, the Mets would welcome bullpen help, but donâ€™t desperately need it. Feliciano is nasty, Joe Smith is solid, Heilman, well good enough. Where the eff is Duaner Sanchez? Juan Padilla? Anyone, anyone, anyone? How are those two not ready yet? Did they vanish with Ozzie Smith into the time-space anomaly at Springfieldâ€™s Mystery Spot?
Duaner, you in there buddy?
The Mets will almost certainly look for help on the bench as long as Julio Franco continues his diligence in grounding out to second base. Why Franco is wasting late game at bats is beyond me. The 49 year old, egg white story has worn thin. If Franco is such a clubhouse presence, a move to coaching is long overdue. Green could play first if he had too and the void between Franco and Easley or Valentinâ€™s defense at third canâ€™t be that wide. Endy Chavezâ€™s impending return will bolster the pine as Chavez can provide days off and late inning defensive substitutions, his versatility to play all three outfield positions and ability to pinch hit greatly enhance the Mets bench. Endy may be the preeminent fourth outfielder in the league but was perhaps a bit over taxed expected to play everyday left and is not the teamâ€™s likely preference in Left. Carlos Gomez proved he could also provide above average defense and used his speed to bunt for base hits while continuously improving his presence at the plate. Gomez could likely fill the role Endy would vacate off the bench as an every day starter, but Gomezâ€™ broken hand will keep him sidelined for another 5-7 weeks and Gomez will benefit greatly from some more at bats in the minors.
The reason the Mets can gamble on the rotation is the shaky leftfield condition. The team was constructed to generate offense from the heart of the order, having the lefty killing Moises Alou to protect Delgado and Wright. With Alou out of the lineup, no one certain when his return is likely, the Mets have a power void in the lineup. Alouâ€™s age and injury history render the outfielder a powerful yet unreliable roster spot, who has the potential to be back on the DL immediately after returning. Counting on Alouâ€™s return is as dicey as counting on Pedro for 2007.
The Milledge Dilemma
Omar Minaya faces something of a paradox in leftfield. Any power bat available before the deadline will most surely cost Lasting Milledge, Phil Humber, Mike Pelfrey or Fernando Martinez. With F-Mart certainly off the table and pitching a precious commodity for a team with two forty year old starters, Milledge is the odds-on favorite to be dealt. Milledge however, may have the most potential to stand-in for the role in Alouâ€™s seemingly indefinite absence. By auditioning Milledge in everyday rightfield, any struggles could drop Milledgeâ€™s trade value and leave Minaya no chips left heâ€™ll willing to deal as midnight approaches on the 31st. If the Mets call up Lastings, he may be there only option the rest of the way.
The less sexy alternative, of course is a patched together leftfield by committee of Rickey Ledee, Ben Johnson and David Newhan, leaving Milledge to rehab in the pressure and spotlight free environment of New Orleans to prepare for a September call up. Carlos Beltran is heating up and the Mets will look for Shawn Green to provide some power to spark this offense along with the man below.
One year after the ’06 HR Derby, let the power curse be lifted
Whether Lastings “The Truth” Milledge gets a July plane ticket to Queens will be an appraisal of value Mets management honestly puts in Lastings Milledge.
The second half starts tomorrow. Buckle your seatbelts; it should be a wild ride.
Let’s Go Mets!
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