The New York Mets have been one of the big surprises in baseball this year. The Mets currently sit 3.5 games back of the Washington Nationals in the NL East, and are currently tied with the Pittsburgh Pirates for the second wild card spot.
Much of the Mets' surprising success has been due to the play of three players: R.A. Dickey, Johan Santana, and David Wright.
R.A. Dickey, who will most likely be the NL starter for the All-Star Game, has been pitching beautifully. He has a .215 ERA, a 12-1 record, and 116 strikeouts.
Johan Santana has come back strong from shoulder surgery. He is just 6-4, but he has a 2.76 ERA and 93 strikeouts.
David Wright is hitting out of his mind. He is hitting a crazy .354, with nine home runs and 50 RBI. His power numbers are not quite as high as they have been in the past, but he is making up for it with his unbelievable batting average.
Still, the Mets seem to be relying on mostly these three guys to carry them. Dickey is 37, Santana is 33 and coming off surgery, and Wright has had injury problems of his own in the past. These three have to come back down to earth eventually, and when they do things could go down hill fast.
Here a five key issues that the Mets have that will ultimately eliminate them from having a chance to win the NL East.
Luckily for the Mets, their starters have been going deep into games. The bullpen has shown signs of weakness throughout the season.
The Mets have a very young team for the most part, except for the bullpen. They have just two players under the age of 30. The Mets don't really seem to have any fireball pitchers that can come out and burn it by you. They rely more on craftiness and experience, which hasn't really been working.
The Mets are second worst in blown saves, having blown 13 in just 34 chances. They do not seem to have a real closer who can get the job done.
Another issue is that they have just two left-handed relief pitchers, one of which is 38-year-old Tim Byrdak. The Mets have shown that they struggle with their pitching to lefties, something that will hurt them.
If the Mets can't find a way to stabilize the back end of the pitching staff, it could be a long second half for Mets fans.
Poor defense seems to have become a problem for the Mets for the last few seasons. It is no difference this year.
The Mets have 63 errors on the year, third most in all of baseball. Their fielding percentage of .979 is also third worst in baseball. It is not coming from any one area either. Both the outfield and infield have made more than their share of mistakes.
The Mets also haven't done a good job keeping runners from stealing. They have the fifth worst caught stealing percentage, catching just 14 runners, 21 percent.
If the Mets want to have any chance of staying in the NL East race, they are really going to have to find a way to clean up their fielding.
The Mets have done a good job staying fairly healthy so far this season. Jason Bay is the only big name that has spent significant time on the disabled list, and some people would say that that's a good thing.
The problem is that at some point in time every team goes through some injury issues. The division leading Washington Nationals have gone through that, and are starting to get their players back. Michael Morse has returned and Drew Storen is on his way back. They have lost Jason Werth for a significant amount of time, but Bryce Harper and Tyler Moore have filled in nicely. The Nationals have shown that they can win despite injuries.
The issue with the Mets is that they don't have the same depth. There are bound to be some injuries along the way, possibly to David Wright and Johan Santana who have injury history. The team is already young, and depth is a real issue.
It will be interesting to see how the Mets handle the injuries that they face in the second half. Most likely it will hurt the team, and allow the Nationals to pull further ahead.
Usually a successful team either crushes the baseball, or plays small ball really well. The Mets aren't really good at either of those.
The Mets are 25th in the league in home runs with just 65. Now part of that is due to the fact that they play in a ballpark that is brutal to power hitters. Yet to be 25th and trying to compete at the top of the league hurts the Mets chances to stay near the top. It is nice to have someone change the game with one swing, and the Mets don't really have anyone who can do that. Lucas Duda has the most homers on the team with 11. That isn't going to help the Mets.
The Mets aren't really going to be able compensate for the lack of power with their speed. They are currently 25th in both stolen bases (42) and stolen base percentage with 68 percent. They are 20th in the league with 18 sacrifice flies, and is sixth worst in hitting into double plays.
Outside of very clutch hitting, the Mets haven't really helped themselves out at the plate or on the bases. If that continues, the Mets aren't going to get any better, and will probably get worse.
The Mets have a pretty old bullpen, and their two best pitchers are in their 30s, but off the mound they are a very young and inexperienced team. Scott Hairston is the only starter over 30, and he has spent most of his career with Arizona, Oakland, and San Diego, teams with little or no playoff experience.
The Mets key positions are filled with young guys. Kirk Nieuwenhuis in center is a rookie and is just 24. Ruben Tejada is just 22 and is the captain of the infield at short. Josh Thole, the starting catcher, is just 25.
The Mets third and fourth starters are Jonathon Niese and Dillon Gee, who are 25 and 26 respectively. Neither has pitched all that well this season.
With all that youth, you can't help but wonder how they will handle the pressure when it comes to crunch time. The Mets have done a good job of completely falling apart at the end of the season in the past, and inexperience doesn't help.
It will be interesting to see how the Mets and their young guns play down the stretch, but if history has taught us anything, it's that it could be ugly.