What is the secret of the Mets’ success so far? They are 41-36, their bullpen is terrible (though better of late, with a 3.90 ERA in June from the relievers), and their defense is porous (stats not necessary here if you’ve seen the team play).
It’s the starting pitching, right? They are getting good starting pitching every night. The starters have posted a 2.71 ERA in June, averaging 6.65 innings per start, and it has been a complete effort from R.A. Dickey right down to Chris Young.
That’s really only half of the total picture, though.
Did you know the Mets have scored the most runs in the National League in June? Third-most in the NL for the season? Oh yes, this offense is a monumental part of the team’s success as well.
That’s a strange thing to parse, though. Of their ten hitters with the most plate appearances, just five have OPS+ totals of above 100, with only David Wright (186) way above average. Scott Hairston is at 124, but his damage only comes against lefties. Lucas Duda is at 113, Kirk Nieuwenhuis at 109, but their damage only comes against righties. And Ruben Tejada, the other player in the top ten in plate appearances above 100, missed more than a month.
So it doesn’t seem to add up, but so far, it has. They couldn’t have out-starting-pitched this bullpen and defense. But with the bats producing, they have managed to do so.
Notice that despite scoring the most runs in the National League in June, the Mets are 10th in the NL in OPS. So, as they have all season, the hits are coming when they need them most. While that is likely to normalize, the Mets also stand a good chance of getting more production moving forward from Ike Davis and Daniel Murphy, two bats expected to give David Wright his primary offensive support. So the dropoff with runners in scoring position isn’t as likely to hurt as it would first appear.
It has been fascinating to see the Mets come to their success in such unorthodox ways, the product of various extremes, both positive and negative. To me, seeing this team succeed in spite of its evident limitations isn’t a bug, but a feature. And as long as they keep hitting, keep getting great starting pitching, and their rivals for those two wild card spots don’t excel, that battle of extremes could be compelling for the next several months.