Two of the three best bets in baseball are Pittsburgh in the top spot at +15.2 units and New York slotted at third at +11 units. Each dumbfounding National League team has surpassed preseason expectations and is in second place in their respective division, right in the playoff hunt.
Given this completely unforeseen development, should either or both teams make a move this month to be a “buyer” in the marketplace, to go for the playoffs or just trust themselves this is the next step in the progression to being a consistent contender? Here is a look at both teams.
New York – The Mets have to go for it this year. Three of the biggest question marks coming into the season about the Metropolitans were:
· Could Dave Wright still be an offensive force again?
· How would Johan Santana come back for surgery?
· What does R.A. stand for in knuckleballer R.A. Dickey?
Wright has been healthy all year and has carried a Mets offense that ranks third in runs scored in the National League. Santana became the first-ever Mets pitcher to throw a no-hitter and is 10th in the senior circuit in ERA and WHIP. Robert Allen Dickey not only leads the majors in wins, he is in the Top 4 of nine different pitching categories.
So why should New York be on the hunt to improve their club? Start with Santana is 33 years old and Dickey is 37, the number of effective years they will have will only dwindle and Dillon Gee and Jonathon Niese give manager Terry Collins four good options as starters.
Realistically, it is a miracle the Mets score as often as they do with Lucas Duda and Scott Hairston supplying most of the power. First basemen Ike Davis has 11 homers and 45 rbi, but his .203 batting average and .278 on-base percentage leaves the team yearning for more.
New York has two needs to address, finding another bat in the lineup and help for a bullpen that is last in ERA in the NL at 4.93 and is tied for next to last in blown saves with 13. While some speculation has them dealing a starting pitcher and a top prospect for Zack Greinke, bringing in a hitter with pop in the bat and reliever or two that can stabilize the bullpen makes more sense.
Pittsburgh – The Pirates have not had a winning season since Barry Bonds left town. Last year they played good baseball for the first three months of the season, until they realized who they are. However, last year’s taste of success helped change the attitude of the club and losing no longer seems like a comfortable option in the Steel City.
Pittsburgh is in a three-team race in the NL Central. St. Louis should have Chris Carpenter (Update -Read here) back before too long, which gives the Cardinals a deeper starting staff. One big edge for the Bucs is they have the best bullpen in the NL, which helps hide offense deficiencies, attempting to play seven inning games.
As compared to the past, the Pirates farm system actually has good prospects and they have the ability to swing a deal for a Shane Victorino, who can energize the offense and add Zack Greinke as a starter.
After years of predictable losing, this is a chance for the Pittsburgh front office to excite the fan base, show them they WANT to win and if the Pirates can make the playoffs, that should be worth two years of goodwill with the fans of the team while the players in the minors develop.
With 32 of their remaining 83 games left against Houston, San Diego and the Cubs, the Pirates need to do what it takes to win in 2012.