The NL East just keeps getting better. We knew the Phillies were good. Then we saw the 2-time defending NL champions acquire Roy Halladay and Placido Polanco.
The 2nd place Braves staff goes 5-deep, and Jair Jurrjens should be returning soon.
The low-budget Marlins could potentially be buyers at the trade deadline.
The Nationals are only 3 games out of first, and they’ll be adding the most hyped rookie ever to their rotation in 2 weeks.
So, with all of the competition in the East, the New York Mets entered the week at a familiar place in the standings: The bottom. And just when the wheels seemed like they were about to fall off for good, something completely unexpected happened.
You see, things weren’t going well. Carlos Beltran’s recovery continued to be pushed back. Their setup man, Kelvim Escobar, needs more surgery. And, now John Maine has been diagnosed with shoulder tendinitis. And it was about to get even worse, as the Phillies were coming to town for three games. None of which Johan Santana would be starting. Talk about piling on, right?
The Mets swept the Phillies with 3 straight shutouts, outscoring the Phillies 16-0, and moving into third place. They now sit just 3 games back from the Phillies, and 3 games behind the Cardinals for the Wild Card lead. My, what a difference a week makes.
Rookie, Ike Davis has been a spark. Since being called up, the Mets have gone 22-17, and Davis has been working major league pitching for a .375 OBP. But it hasn’t been the bats.
The Mets rank towards the bottom of the league in nearly every hitting statistic. About the only thing they seem to do well at the plate is hit triples, as they rank 2nd in the league in that category.
The reason the Mets might be serious competitors this year is their pitching. They have two guys atop their staff who have been shutting teams down, in Johan Santana and Mike Pelfrey. Santana’s ERA is 3.41, and he’s got a 49:17 K:BB ratio. Pelfrey has been absolutely lights out with a 2.54 ERA.
But the thing that is probably the most beneficial to the Mets is how efficient the top of the rotation has been. See below.
Johan Santana – 1000 PIT, 63 1/3 IP = 15.79 PIT/IP
Mike Pelfrey – 1028 PIT, 63 2/3 IP = 16.15 PIT/IP
Both Santana and Pelfrey are averaging 6 and 1/3 Innings per start. This allows them to give the bullpen a rest. And, as you take a look at the other three starters, you’ll see that the bullpen is definitely getting worked.
Going into this weekend:
John Niese – 760 PIT, 41 1/3 IP = 18.39 PIT/IP
Oliver Perez – 974 PIT, 33 1/3 IP = 29.22 PIT/IP
John Maine – 662 PIT, 34 2/3 IP = 19.10 PIT/IP (ignoring last 2 starts – shoulder tendinitis)
The 3, 4, and 5 starters have been terribly inefficient this year, but the fact that Santana and Pelfrey have been able to go 7 innings has kept the pen fresh. This is what they call a ‘stopper.’
Still, though, if you only come to play 2 out of every 5 games, how do you end up with a winning record? To answer that question, let’s take a look at the replacements who have taken over for Perez and Maine:
Hisanori Takahashi: 195 PIT, 12 IP = 16.25 PIT/IP (2 starts)
R.A. Dickey: 201 PIT, 12 IP = 16.75 PIT/IP (2 starts)
With this type of pitching, even a sub-par offense will easily outscore opponents. To further illustrate the importance of a ‘stopper,’ let’s take a look at a team with an impressive offense whose pitching staff is struggling with efficiency. Allow me to present the Milwaukee Brewers.
Yovani Gallardo: 1069 pitches, 59 IP = 18.11 pitches per inning
Randy Wolf: 1057 pitches, 61 2/3 IP = 17.14 pitches per inning
Doug Davis: 708 pitches, 33 1/3 IP = 21.24 pitches per inning
Dave Bush: 795 pitches, 46 2/3 IP = 17.04 pitches per inning
These numbers are bad. Sure, Gallardo (3.20 ERA) has been pitching well. But if you can’t pitch past the 6th inning, you’re putting a lot of pressure on your bullpen. And the bullpen has been arguably Milwaukee’s biggest problem.
The Brewers lack a ‘stopper.’ And, what do you know? The Brewers are 8 games below .500.
The Mets have 2 ‘stoppers.’ The Mets are looking like contenders. You do the math.