The first week of the Major League Baseball season is in the books. Should New York Mets fans be encouraged or discouraged? It probably has a lot to do with whether you are an optimistic fan or a pessimistic fan. Pessimists will probably point out that the New York Mets are only 3 – 4, are fourth in the division and lost the first game at their new stadium. But as an optimist I think fans should be encouraged by the New York Mets so far.

At the end of the 2008 season this is how I would rate the biggest concerns for the New York Mets:
1. Bullpen
2. Catcher
3. Shortstop
4. Corner Outfielders
5. Starting Pitchers
6. Clutch Hitting

Clearly the biggest problem for the New York Mets last season was the bullpen. If every game last season ended after six innings then the New York Mets would have won the division by 11 games. The bullpen could single-handedly be the difference in the division. So far the bullpen’s batting average and walks are middle of the road so the bullpen does like to make it interesting, but ultimately the Mets bullpen is second in the National League in ERA.

It’s only been a week so the sample size is very small but obviously it’s encouraging when a player starts the season well and so far Luis Castillo is hitting at a .368 clip. Castillo, at the bottom of the order, has scored more times than Reyes and as many times as Carlos Beltran or Carlos Delgado. Castillo has made one error but he looks better than last year and unfortunately the Mets have had error-itis early. Maybe when the team plays better defensively it will become contagious like the bad defense is now.

Maybe the most encouraging story in the first week of the New York Mets season are the corner outfielders. When Gary Sheffield gets his first start for the New York Mets it is either going to send the team’s leading hitter or the team’s leading scorer to the bench. Ryan Church has started off the season batting .423 and Daniel Murphy is third in National League with 8 runs scored. Maybe neither one will keep up the pace for the entire season but I don’t think the Mets need Ryan Church to bat over .400 over to win.

ESPN aired the Mets’ first game of the season and throughout the game they kept a tally of the Mets’ success with runners in scoring position, probably because it had been such an issue last season. The New York Mets ended up going 1 for 13 including twice getting the first batter in scoring position and never scoring them. But since then the New York Mets have gone 15 for 53 with runners in scoring position. That’s not great, but it is a good average. The Mets are already 6th in the NL in RBI when runners are in scoring positions so they are at least scoring runs in some of those situations.

To me the most important thing is that David Wright is batting .333 with runners in scoring position (yeah, it’s only 2 for 6 but still). Last year David Wright’s batting average with runners in scoring position plummeted and he still tied the team record for RBI in a season. If Wright had his regular numbers with runners in scoring position then he may have matched Ryan Howard’s RBI total last year without having to hit 50 home runs.

There are still some problems on the list above. The catcher situation is not good and the Mets might have to hope to just overcome that spot this season. The starting pitching is off to a bad start but how many teams don’t have starters struggling at the beginning of the season? Oliver Perez might be a concern because he looked like his usual erratic self but I’m not convinced John Maine or Mike Pelfrey are in trouble until we see them pitch some more. Maybe those three pitchers won’t reach the high hopes the Mets organization has for them but I don’t believe they are as bad as they have pitched so far either.

Let’s also not forget that even though there are three teams ahead of the New York Mets in the standings, all three have beat up on the 0 – 7 Nationals and the Mets haven’t. The Phillies have 2 more games against the Nationals and the Marlins and Braves have another 3 game series each before the Mets get to play them. Let’s not get too worried until the schedule has evened out a little bit.

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