If you're wondering why I haven't posted anything in a while, I assure you I have a very good excuse. Things had been going so well for the Mets since I last posted that I didn't want to do anything to jinx them. But now that the team's fortunes have taken a bit of a downturn in the last few days, I thought I'd come back and try to talk Mets fans off the ledge. With fourteen games left to play, the Mets have a one and a half game lead over the Phillies and a fanbase and media eager to remind them of last year's collapse. Instead of joining the chorus of naysayers, I will now give several reasons why September 2008 will not be a repeat of September 2007.
Johan Santana. In September 2007, the only Met starters with ERAs under 4.5 were Pedro Marintez at 2.57 and Oliver Perez at 4.45 and neither of them averaged even six innings per start. Tom Glavine, John Maine and Orlando Hernandez all had terrible months, Mike Pelfrey was still pitching like the 2007 Mike Pelfey and guys like Brian Lawrence and Philip Humber got key starts with disastrous results. This September, Santana has pitched 20.1 innings in three starts with a 2.66 ERA, 20 strikeouts and only six walks and one home run allowed. The 2.66 ERA is actually the highest he's had in any month since May and he's been averaging more than six innings per start all season long. Overall Met starters aren't having a great month, posting a 4.90 ERA in September, but both Jonathon Niese and Oliver Perez pitched well this weekend and Santana gives the team something they didn't have last year. He is someone they can depend on to go out every five days and pitch well deep into the game. That's not enough to seal up the division, but it should be a big help in avoiding the five-game losing streaks that befell the team twice last September.
Guillermo Mota. Guillermo Mota is pitching for the Milwaukee Brewers right now, which has been and should continue to be a big help to the Mets' bullpen. The 2007 Mets' pen ranked high on the list of reasons for the collapse, well ahead of the offense, posting an ERA of 4.40 in the second half an 4.63 in September after a 3.67 first half. This year they had another good first half at 3.81 and bad second half at 4.86, but they've turned things around with a 3.03 ERA 30:14 K:BB ratio and just 29 hits and three home runs in 35.2 innings. Sure, they blew two run leads with two innings to go in two of the last three games, but overall they've been dependable. Luis Ayala shouldn't be given too long of a leash as closer, but he has been solid with a 9:1 K:BB ratio and only one home run allowed in thirteen innings.
Daniel Murphy. The young infielder-turned-outfielder is hitting .360/.442/.528 in 89 at bats with the Mets and he is just the best example of a group of young players who are making an impact for the Mets in this pennant race. There's Jonathon Niese, who pitched eight shutout innings on Saturday. There's Nick Evans, who is mashing lefties to the tune of .338/.386/.508. These are the sort of players who would have been left to rot on Willie Randolph's bench. While I haven't agreed with every decision made during the Jerry Manuel regime, he has shown more willingness to play young, unproven rookies in important roles than Willie ever did and the team has benefited greatly from it.
Fernando Tatis. Thirty-three year old Fernando Tatis, who had all of 56 major league at bats from 2004 to 2007 is hitting .301/.375/.489 for the Mets this year. This continues to be ridiculous. I was genuinely surprised when he didn't hit a game-tying three-run home run in the ninth inning on Sunday. If Mr. Two Grand Slams In One Inning can hit .300 with walks and power in 2008, how can the Mets not win the division?
It's not going to be easy. The Mets have a slightly tougher schedule than the Phillies the rest of the way as the Mets have to play the Cubs four times while the Phillies have only the Marlins, Braves and Nationals standing in their way. But while they may have the best record in the league, the next time the Chicago Cubs are a force to be reckoned with in September would be the first. Fourteen games remain and the Mets' magic number sits at thirteen. Good thing I'm not superstitious.