At the beginning of the season, I told you that the Mets would be much better than people think. And while I would love to take full back-patting on that prediction, to do so would be disingenuous.
Who could have predicted solid starting pitching from R.A. Dickey? Who could have predicted a "hold-down-the-fort" type of pitching performance from Hisenori Takahashi? Who could have predicted an Ace-like performance by Mike Pelfrey and Jon Niese?
I believed that the combination of Mike Jacobs and Fernando Tatis, while the weakest part of the everyday lineup, would be good enough to help the Mets compete in the NL East.
I could not have guessed Ike Davis would arrive to contribute offensively and settle down the infield defense with a veteran presence that belies his rookie status.
I thought Jason Bay would lead the team in home runs and RBIs. I also believed Carlos Beltran would return in May, but could not have guessed that Angel Pagan would do his best Carlos Beltran imitation both defensively and offensively at the top of the Mets' lineup.
None of the predictions within the predictions came true yet here the Mets are: four games behind Atlanta for the division and a game out of the Wild Card.
This is while getting virtually nothing from Jason Bay, John Maine, Oliver Perez, and still awaiting the return of Beltran, the Mets' best baseball may actually be ahead of them.
Beltran is slated to return post All-Star break as the Mets look to add a bullpen arm and starting pitcher through the trade market.
You have to figure that Jason Bay will pick it up offensively which could be huge for the Mets in a pennant race. Beltran's return should help solidify the lineup which sometimes feels a bit thin, especially towards the bottom of the lineup.
With a hurting Luis Castillo, and the inconsistency and lack of patience of Jeff Francoeur and Rod Barajas, pitchers can often use the bottom of the Mets lineup to have quick innings and re-stabilize their starts to go deeper into games. Often, the Mets will put a few runs up early in the game, but cannot maintain offense with the bottom of the lineup.
Beltran's addition in the four hole puts another patient hitter in the lineup, and removes an impatient hitter in Francoeur. Castillo could provide a nice option in the eighth hole to make pitchers work and get on base for the top of the lineup. He can help to turn a lineup over, and, in turn, raise pitchers' pitch counts and help to eliminate quick innings for opposing starters.
In terms of pitching, the Mets either need to make the aforementioned move for a starter or hope against hope that Oliver Perez, who is making rehabilitation starts, contributes in a meaningful way down the stretch.
Either way, the Mets are in the race and have a chance to play postseason baseball. That's a far cry from what some "experts" were saying about this team.