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Mets' first-half grades: Pitching gets best mark

Matt Harvey pitches against the Arizona Diamondbacks at

Matt Harvey pitches against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Citi Field. (July 3, 2013) Credit: Jim McIsaac

First-half grades for the Mets:

Hitting C-

For all of its struggles in the first half, the offense easily could have earned a D. However, the Mets hit 87 homers, good enough to at least stack up with the league average. The home runs have helped. Though the Mets rank second to last in the NL with a team OPS of .680, their 4.13 runs per game are slightly above the league average. David Wright wrapped up a strong first half -- .304, 13 HRs, 44 RBIs -- numbers which are even more remarkable because he spent most of the season hitting without protection. However, Wright has received more help of late from Marlon Byrd, whose team-high 15 homers has made him a natural choice as the cleanup hitter.

Pitching B-

The bullpen remains a touchy area and the Mets' lack of starting pitching depth is alarming. Yet the pitching staff as a whole is on an upswing, aided by the continued excellence of Matt Harvey, the arrival of Zack Wheeler and the improvement of Jeremy Hefner and Dillon Gee. The latter two righthanders have settled into a groove after rough beginnings. Johan Santana and Shaun Marcum are done for the year and Jon Niese is battling back from shoulder woes, leaving the Mets without three-fifths of the starting rotation. But Harvey's ace-level production has helped cover up for the lack of depth. Meanwhile, with his strong work out of the bullpen, righthander Carlos Torres has earned the chance to solidify the back end of the rotation.

Defense D

On the surface, the Mets can take some consolation in making only 58 errors, which sits exactly at the National League average. But that number is less a product of surehandedness and more an indication of inadequate range. The Mets generally don't get to enough balls to make errors. That lack of range also prevents them from turning base hits into outs. It's a bad mix for a pitching staff that needs strong glovework to compensate for the inability to miss bats. Defensive efficiency measures the rate in which teams convert all batted balls into outs, which can give a rough estimate of a team's defensive range. The Mets' .685 defensive efficiency ranks second to last in the league behind only the Rockies. Lucas Duda was a liability in left until Eric Young Jr. arrived. Ruben Tejada's diminished range and errors at shortstop were another Achilles heel until Omar Quintanilla stepped in.

Manager C+

Things were status quo for Terry Collins, who made the best of a roster short on talent. But in some respects, he made the task more difficult for himself. His bullpen management at certain points only highlighted the unit's lack of depth and reliability. However, Collins has pieced together passable solutions in the outfield. And he deserves credit for his work in the clubhouse. The team's roster reshuffling likely wouldn't have yielded results without the manager's ability to carve out roles for his players. Despite a daunting travel schedule and a propensity for extra-inning games, the Mets overcame fatigue in the latter part of the first half. The Mets finished strongly, helping to offset their miserable May.

Front Office C-

During an offseason marked by the trade of R.A. Dickey for a package headlined by catching prospect Travis d'Arnaud, the Mets signed only two big-league free agents. By the All-Star break, both had thrown their final pitch for the Mets. Marcum underwent season-ending surgery to treat a nerve issue in his right arm and reliever Brandon Lyon was designated for assignment. The Duda experiment in leftfield has proved fruitless because his inconsistent offensive production has been canceled out by his woeful defense. The signing and eventual release of Astros castoff Rick Ankiel was a failure, though the acquisition of Young Jr. for pitcher Collin McHugh has given the Mets their first legitimate leadoff option since the departure of Jose Reyes.

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