1:24 pm May. 24, 2012
The New York Mets are 24-20 with the season more than a quarter over. That puts them in a tie with the Miami Marlins, a team that spent aggressively this offseason as the Mets cut salary at an unprecedented rate.
There are lots of reasons the Mets have outperformed expectations so far, from David Wright's M.V.P.-level campaign to the strong starting pitching of Johan Santana and R.A. Dickey and the development of Bobby Parnell in the bullpen. But the Mets have also succeeded because when their every-day players have gotten injured, the backup players came in and performed nearly as well.
That's not been universally true: With Josh Thole down, the Mets have received virtually no production from backup catcher Mike Nickeas.
But Andres Torres' injury, followed by Jason Bay's injury, paved the way for Kirk Nieuwenhuis to debut, and Nieuwenhuis has provided New York with solid production both at the plate and in the field.
More unexpected has been the play of Ronny Cedeno, who took over at shortstop for Ruben Tejada's stint on the disabled list.
Cedeno's single in Wednesday afternoon's 3-2 win over the Pirates gave him a five-game hitting streak which included three multi-hit games. His home run last week helped seal a 9-4 comeback victory over the Reds. He's posted an O.P.S.+ of 118 this season for the Mets, which is tremendous for a shortstop. And his glove, the real reason the Mets brought him in as a backup middle infielder, has been as strong as ever.
Cedeno has not only been collecting hits, but has shown patience as well. He has nine walks in 65 plate appearances, meaning he has walked nearly 14 percent of the time he's come to the plate. His career mark? 5.2 percent. And he's topped seven percent just once in any full season. Thus, his .391 on-base percentage is more than 100 points higher than his career mark of .289. To put that change in perspective, .391 is just a shade below Rickey Henderson's career mark of .401, while .289 was exactly Rey Ordonez's career on-base percentage.
At 29, he's relatively old to develop as a player. And just last year, he posted a .365 on-base percentage over 86 plate appearances from April 18-May 18. So his start, which is so far superior to his career norm, isn't necessarily sustainable.
Which is OK, since Tejada is expected to return this weekend.
But Ronny Cedeno has already done his part, and then some, for his overachieving team.