Role Players Keyed Mets’ First Half Run
NEW YORK– By Mo Miller
With the All Star break upon us, the Mets sit 46-40, four games over .500. The Mets, a team many predicted to finish well under .500, is right in the fight for a playoff spot.
You have your obvious reasons: David Wright is having an MVP-like season, hitting .351/.441/.563 with 11 home runs and 59 RBIs. R. A. Dickey has been nothing short of spectacular, with a 12-1 record and a 2.40 ERA, and 9.2 strikeouts per nine innings. Johan Santana, with the exception of a few bad starts, has looked like the Santana of old, with his 6-5 record due to a lack of run support. But while those three players shined during the first half, they didn’t do it all. Baseball is a team sport and a few good players doesn’t automatically lead to wins. You need some role players to shine and help out the expected stars.
First and foremost, Ruben Tejada has done just that. In the offseason, star shortstop Jose Reyes was a free agent and Mets fans were screaming about how no offer was made to Reyes. Well Mets fans have been delightfully surprised with Tejada. Tejada continues to shine in the field, which Mets fans saw in the past, but Tejada has shown more to his game than just defense. Tejada’s patience at the plate has made manager Terry Collins upgrade Tejada, who started the season eighth in the lineup, to the leadoff slot. Tejada is seeing approximately four pitches per plate appearance, allowing his teammates behind him in the lineup to gauge that day’s pitcher. Furthermore, Tejada’s has developed a line drive swing. Tejada, who used to have trouble getting the ball out of the infield, has consistently been hitting line drives, leading to his .325 average.
Secondly, Scott Hairston has been a wonderful power bat. Hairston has started mostly against lefties, and has eaten them apart. Against lefties, Hairston is batting .295 with nine home runs and 21 RBIs and is slugging .619. Hairston totals at a .249 average, .524 slugging percentage, with 12 homers, and 34 RBIs. With the injuries to Jason Bay and Andres Torres, and their lack of performance, as well as Ike Davis’ long slump, Hairston has been huge for the Mets giving them that extra boost of offense.
Thirdly, Mike Baxter has been a nice surprise. Many fans nay have forgotten about Baxter because he’s been injured for over a month now. Baxter is obviously most famous for that injury, which was brought on by his no-hitter saving catch on June 1. However, Baxter seemed to get clutch hit after clutch hit for the Mets, so much so that manager Terry Collins at a point was starting him every day in left field. On the season, Baxter has played in 40 games, batting .323/.523/.915 with 10 RBIs and 11 doubles.
Lastly, Tim Byrdak has been a huge part of the bullpen, which for the most part has been terrible this season. The bullpen has an ERA over five. However, there has been one bright spot in Byrdak. Byrdak, who is primarily a LOOGY, has appeared in a league-high 43 games, tallying up 22.2 innings, and has allowed only six out of 35 inherited runners to score. In a bullpen that has been full of black holes, Byrdak has been a bright spot.
Can these players continue to play the role they have been playing in the second half of the season? It may break or make the Mets season.