After doing as expected in Philadelphia, losing to Hamels and beating Worley and Kendrick, the Braves head to Queens to take on the Mets for the weekend. It was great to see R.A. Dickey dominate yesterday, meaning he will not be seen during this series. That being said, the Mets will be throwing their top two remaining starters, along with their top young arm, in this series.
Maholm threw well against the Astros in his first Braves start, but made two mistakes to Justin Maxwell to end up with the loss. Harvey has made three starts in the majors, striking out nearly a third of all batters faced while keeping walks around 10%. The highly-touted prospect has a power arm, running his fastball up to 98 MPH this year, showing flyball tendencies. His offspeed deliveries are raw, though his changeup has very good movement at 84-87.
Medlen keeps showing everyone that we shouldn’t bet against him, throwing well in his first two starts. Santana will be making his first start off the DL from an ankle injury. He has posted an uncanny luck-neutral line this year, a 3.98 ERA, 3.97 FIP, and 3.97 xFIP. His K rate is at its highest since ’07, while his BB rate hasn’t been this high since ’02. He’s throwing less pitches in the zone, fewer first-pitch strikes, hitters are swinging less often, but also making less contact.
Sheets continues his improbable run back to stardom, pitching into the 8th inning his last outing. Niese can probably be best described as Maholm with more strikeouts, a.k.a. a pretty good pitcher. His platoon splits aren’t large, but he does strike out more lefties than righties. He’s also gotten through the 6th inning every start since the beginning of June, so he could provide a reprieve for the bullpen after the young Harvey and returning Santana.
The Mets offense has not been bad this year, posting a 99 wRC+, tied for 3rd in the NL with the Braves. David Wright has been the only impact bat, with a .327/.419/.539 line, on par with his career year in ’07. Ruben Tejada and Daniel Murphy have provided above-average production in the middle infield, relying mostly on high averages. Scott Hairston and Jordany Valdespin have provided some pop in platoon/bench roles.
The biggest problem has been offensive production in non-premium positions. The Mets cannot wait long enough to see Jason Bay‘s contract end, since his .156/.247/.281 line and poor LF defense aren’t exactly worth $16M. Lucas Duda looked to be an emerging star heading into this year, but the K’s skyrocketed and his poor RF defense somehow managed to get worse, which has led him back to AAA. Ike Davis barely staved off a demotion, though he hasn’t shown anything besides power this year. It’s really hard to succeed when your OFfensive positions are ofFENsive.
Speaking of offensive (the bad one), the Mets defense has been horrible this year, with only the Rockies playing worse in the field. As mentioned above, Duda is the worst offender, posting a -18 UZR and -16 DRS, a historically bad pace. Murphy has been poor at second base, showing a -8 UZR and -7 DRS. After three straight years around -10, Wright is back on the positive side of the spectrum, with he and catcher Josh Thole as the only plus defenders.
The Mets look a lot like the Dodgers of last year, boasting a Cy Young and MVP candidate and not much else. The Braves have three pitchers going who have been consistent lately, and the offense is still finding multiple ways to score. While two more lefties will be sent out by the Mets, anything less than 2-out-of-3 would be a major disappointment.