11:35 am Jul. 19, 2012
The New York Mets' season is getting away from them in rapid fashion.
Last night, they turned to Miguel Batista, who pitched poorly in a 4-3 loss to the Washington Nationals.
The loss dropped the Mets to eight games behind Washington.They how trail four teams for the two wild card spots: Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Los Angeles and St. Louis.
They lead Miami, Milwaukee and Arizona by just two games. All three of those teams are now looking to sell, not buy, with an eye on 2013.
The Mets' roster just seems to be too limited for them to have hung with the National League contenders for a whole season.
Back in December, I wrote this:
"Whatever noise the Mets make next year will come mostly from things beyond [general manager Sandy] Alderson's control: the medical recoveries of former ace Johan Santana and would-be cleanup hitter Ike Davis, Daniel Murphy's unevolved ability to play second base, David Wright's ability to take advantage of Citi Field's new dimensions, and whether the pod people who stole Jason Bay just after he signed with the Mets give him back. There’s no backup plan."
The Mets actually turned out OK on these questions so far. Santana, though he has struggled since his no-hitter, has been better than league average, and has made every start so far. Davis, after a terrible slump, has been quite good for the past month. Murphy has held his own at second base while hitting about as he has throughout his career. David Wright is having an M.V.P.-caliber season.
The Mets have even received more than they had any right to from Ruben Tejada at shortstop, while R.A. Dickey and Jon Niese have taken a step forward. The struggles of Lucas Duda defensively, and Jason Bay to stay healthy or produce, were well within the realm of predictable.
It's been the rest of the roster that's either produced inconsistently, like Jordany Valdespin, or poorly, like Mike Nickeas at catcher and much of the bullpen.
But this is the roster the Mets were destined to have. When a general manager is given roughly $10 million to spend on a roster that finished 77-85 in 2011, and he cannot retain his two most valuable hitters on that 2011 team (Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran), or his best reliever (Francisco Rodriguez), there's only so much he can do.
Alderson's plan required the bullpen pieces he brought in—Jon Rauch, Frank Francisco and Ramon Ramirez—to perform at around their career norms, too. But bullpen arms are notoriously unpredictable, and all three have turned out to be bad bets.
Which brings us to Miguel Batista. He's 41 years old, coming off of a 2011 season that superficially looked good—a 3.60 E.R.A.—but was, in reality, filled with warning signs. His x.F.I.P. was a putrid 5.20.
And so it has been this year as well. He's pitched to a 4.33 E.R.A., but his x.F.I.P. is 4.93. There's no reason to believe he's better than his component stats suggest, just that he's managed to get better results so far.
He walks way too many batters, and he doesn't strike out many. The result is testing the awful Mets' defense frequently, and with runners on base.
Still, the Mets would have turned to other pitchers by now if they had the depth to do so. Instead, Batista is getting a promotion. Off of his Wednesday outing—two runs, three hits in 2/3 of an inning, good for the final margin of defeat against Washington—he'll be starting Saturday, ahead of Matt Harvey, the pitching prospect whom the front office deemed not quite ready yet, and with good reason.
After Wednesday's game, Batista declared the Mets to be "the best team in baseball." They're not, and if Batista pitches poorly on Saturday, he may not even be a part of the Mets anymore. But he'll have stuck around long enough to be part of their downfall.
What thrills there have been in this 2012 season have come from R.A. Dickey, from Johan Santana, from David Wright, who had three hits, including a home run, in Wednesday's defeat. Personally, Batista, an author in his spare time and extremely intelligent, is every bit as easy to root for as the Mets' three stars.
But when the ultimate failures of the 2012 Mets are recalled, they'll probably start with Batista, who they came to rely on because they had no other choice.
Elsewhere in New York sports:
With Wednesday's completed sweep of the Blue Jays, the Yankees hold a ten-game lead in the American League East. They are on pace to win 101 games.
Brook Lopez is excited to be the Nets' center instead of Dwight Howard. Of course, if Howard is still with the Magic after January 15, we get to have those discussions all over again.
Tornike Shengelia signed a two-year deal to join the Nets as a backup forward.
Former Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni and current Nets coach Avery Johnson are surprised the Knicks let Jeremy Lin go. Join the club, fellas.
Thierry Henry scored the kind of goal envisioned by the Red Bulls when they got him, and it was enough to beat the Chicago Fire, 1-0.