Friday, August 14, 2015

Next Up: The New York Mets

Two things about the series with the Cardinals: First, this excellent article by Grantland's Ben Lindgergh describing how the Cards, while admittedly a very good team, have also been lucky. Second, hate to be the voice of doom, but if the Cardinals play .500 ball the rest of the way, they'll finish 97-65. If the Pirates area going to overtake them, the Bucs need to go 32-18 the rest of the way. That's a .640 winning percentage. That's a really tall order, given that only one major league team--the Cardinals, of course--have been able to sustain that level of success.

With that behind them, the Pirates now move on from playing the best-pitching team in the National League on the road, playing the the second-best pitching team in the National League, the New York Mets, on the road.

How Are They Doing Lately? The Mets are 16-10 over the last 30 days, the fourth-best record in the National League. They've scored 4.7 runs per game, tying the Diamondbacks over the past 30 days, while giving up 3. 4 runs per game, the second-fewest. Those are all solid numbers. Their record's well-deserved. More recently, they've won 11 of 13, moving into first in the National League East, and becoming the "it" team in New York.

What's Going Right? The Mets starters have a 2.83 ERA over the last 30 days, the second best in the National League. They've struck out the batters the fifth most frequently, been the stingiest at allowing walks, allowed the third-lowest rate of hard contact. Opposing batters have made contact on only 73% of their swings against Mets relievers, resulting in the highest rate of soft contact and the fourth lowest rate of hard contact over the period. 

What's Going Wrong? The offense has been just okay. Over the last 30 days, the Mets are eighth in the 15-team National League in batting average (.252), eighth in on base percentage (.317), and seventh in slugging percentage (.408). They've walked at the fifth-highest rate, but their eight stolen bases are last in the league.

Who's Hot? The offense has been carried over the past 30 days by first baseman Lucas Duda (team-leading nine homers, .640 slugging percentage, but out with a sore back) and right fielder Curtis Granderson (team-leading 20 runs scored and 20 driven in, .291/.373/.553 slash line). Saturday's starting pitcher, Jon Niese, has a 2.93 ERA over the past 30 days, and Sunday's starter, Matt Harvey, has been nearly unhittable, with a 1.23 ERA and .162 batting average over the period. 

Who's Not? The Mets traded for Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe to fill in for the injured David Wright at third, and they've combined for a .207 batting average and .263 on base percentage. Bartolo Colon, Friday's starter, is the only Mets starter with an ERA above 3.00 over the past 30 days. His 5.93 isn't close. Closer Jeurys Familia has a 4.38 ERA and nearly as many blown saves (three) as saves (five) over the period.

What's the Outlook? The Pirates don't have the meat of their pitching rotation (J.A. Happ, Charlie Morton, Jeff Locke) against the Mets. So the offense, which has scored 5.0 runs per game over the last 30 days, second in the league, will have to keep it going in order to overcome the Mets' starters.

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