By the time the New York Mets get through with Stephen Strasburg and the Washington Nationals this weekend they will be exactly half way through their 162-game regular season schedule.
As we near the mid point of the season, let's revisit five questions the Mets had coming into the season.
Will the Mets Pitching Hold Up?
Yes and no. First, the good. The Mets will have a 10-game winner at the All-Star break in Mike Pelfrey and the team currently has a collective ERA of 3.77, good enough for sixth in the league. The team has combined for more shutouts than any other team in baseball and no team has held baserunners in check than the Mets.
R.A Dickey has been a revelation, starting the year 6-0 before losing to the Marlins in San Juan, and nobody would have guessed that Hisanori Takahashi would be 6-3. Pedro Feliciano has been an absolute workhorse and Jenrry Mejia has shown the Mets the future, even if the club mishandled him.
Now for the average and the bad. While he's not been terrible by any means, Johan Santana has been far from dominant. He sports a 5-5 record through 16 starts and his only real problems have came from an increased walk rate and far fewer strikeouts.
Oliver Perez has been a massive joke and I hope we have seen the end of him, and John Maine was battered on a regular basis before his trip to the DL.
Still, the good far outweighs the bad so far in 2010.
If you would have told the Mets they would be 10 games over .500 at the start of July even though Santana could count his wins on one hand, you'd snap their arm off in a heartbeat.
Can the Mets Keep Pace With the Phillies
Philadelphia was the team to beat heading into 2010. They had been to back-to-back World Series and three consecutive postseasons and many pundits thought they were as strong as ever before.
The Phillies came out of the blocks pretty well through the first six weeks, establishing a 4.5-game lead in the NL East where nobody could really find any consistency. After dropping a series at home to the Red Sox in the third week of May, the Mets really helped put the breaks on the Phils.
New York blanked them for three consecutive games, and the division lead was gone just four days later. The Phillies have not even been a .500 team since that series, and it's fair to say the Mets are holding their own.
Both teams have been dealing with injuries, and while the Mets hope to have Carlos Beltran back healthy after the All-Star break, the Phillies have just lost two of their infielders to injury, just a week after DL-ing catcher Carlos Ruiz and welcoming Jimmy Rollins back from his second stint on the shelf.
The Phillies will no doubt be there or there abouts at the end of the season, but right now, the Mets are keeping pace with the defending National League champs and then some.
Will Jason Bay Be Worth Four Years and $66 million?
Jason Bay is the seventh-highest earning Met on the payroll in 2010, and his salary will more than double next season. But is he earning his $8.6 million so far this season?
He came to Citi Field with a reputation as being a power hitter with a decent batting average and a little speed, but his lack of pop has been the talking point so far this season.
His .278 average is perfectly in line with his career average, and he's running like it's 2005 and he's in a Pittsburgh jersey. He has learned pretty quickly how to utilize the spacious gaps and deep alleys in Flushing, and there's every chance he could hit 40 doubles and double-digit triples.
But Omar Minaya didn't bring him from Boston to hit doubles. It took him 20 games to hit his first home run this year and then 24 more games for his second. He only had four home runs on the season until he went deep twice against the Marlins on Monday, and it was the second time he has gone yard twice in a game.
Bay has never hit fewer than 25 home runs once in his whole career, but he's barely on pace for 10 even if he stays healthy.
You've got to think that some of those doubles will eventually turn to home runs, but even if you include his plus defense as a big redeeming feature, he's still not living up to his billing quite yet. It will come, there's no doubt about that, but his swing isn't quite paying back the hype.
Just How Badly Will the Mets Struggle Without Carlos Beltran?
When Beltran had his knee surgery in the offseason, one of the biggest questions centered around whether the Mets outfield would be able to tread water until he returned.
The outfield has actually been pretty solid, but nobody would have guessed that it would be Angel Pagan leading the way. While Bay has struggled with his power, as detailed above, and Jeff Francoeur has been on a rollercoaster of ups and downs, switch-hitting Pagan has commanded centerfield with All-Star efficiency.
He's batting at a .302 clip and stealing bases, and he's had more RBI than, Jeff Francoeur, Rob Barajas, and Ike Davis.
It's pretty impressive when you consider he's been batting leadoff, second, and sixth—hardly prime run-producing spots.
Ironically though, it is Pagan who may be shifted to the bench once Beltran returns, even though he has arguably been the Mets most valuable player in the first half of this season.
Pagan has been a pleasant surprise and he's been keeping the Mets afloat when others have been struggling. The answer to this question could have been very different had Pagan been a below-average replacement. As it currently is, he's one of the biggest reasons that the Mets are in touching distance in the NL East.
Will Jerry Manuel Still Have a Job By [inset month here]?
Whichever month you chose, the chances are that you would have said 'no'. Sceptics might have said that he wouldn't make it through April. Others might have thought that he was ripe for the chop after a four-game sweep in Florida mid May.
How about batting Reyes third, getting K-Rod to warm up against the Yankees only to bring in Raul Valdes to melt down, or telling beat reporters his team was unprepared to go against Livan Hernandez?
For all the calls for his head on a plate, Manuel has kept things in check and he's ensured the Mets house is in order. There's no infighting like in Chicago or players dogging after balls like in Florida or Tampa.
This isn't 2009 and the Mets actually look like a team that could put teams on their backs in the playoffs.
There's no reason to ditch Manuel now if the team was unwilling to part ways with him in May, and if the Mets get better as is expected when Beltran returns, there's more than a punchers' chance that he will make it through the season.
He's going to be on a hot seat whenever the team slumps, but for now I think it's fair to say that Manuel and the Mets are outperforming everyone's preseason expectations.
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