Mets’ improbable turnaround more than just Cespedes

You might say that Yoenis Cespedes has revitalized the New York Mets. But you might also say that he’s sucked all the air out of the room. Because it sure seems like he’s getting about 98 percent of the credit while deserving maybe 20 percent.

For example, the promotional blurbs and whatnot for Jayson Stark’s highly informational column say Cespedes sparked the Mets turnaround, and that he’s “the man who flipped the switch.”

Well, it’s been one hell of a turnaround. That’s for sure. Here’s Stark:

So “offensive embarrassment” would be a polite way to describe the Mets before they traded for Cespedes moments before the July 31 trading deadline.

But since this is a history lesson, the hard facts are these: From April through July, the Mets were the worst offensive team in their league. Last in runs scored. Hitting .234 as a team, with a .662 OPS. Averaging 3.5 runs and 0.9 homers per game.

And then they did the greatest legal U-turn of modern times.

Since they flipped the calendar to August, the Mets have somehow turned into the best offensive team in their league. First in runs scored. Hitting .275, with an .840 team OPS. Averaging 6.2 runs and 1.7 homers per game. Holy schmoly.

With just two home runs, Cespedes will become just the second player in major-league history – Fred McGriff was the first, in 1993 – with at least 18 home runs before a trade, then more than 18 home runs after the trade.

Of course, this is a classic example of cherry-picking. What about players with 17 homers before a trade, and 22 after? Or 16 before and 21 after? Were those feats less impressive?

Regardless, I think everyone’s in agreeance about the nature of Cespedes’ heroics.

But attributing the Mets’ successes since trading for Cespedes to only Cespedes is terribly misleading.

Here are some OPS’s since the beginning of August:

.986 Travis d’Arnaud

.971 Michael Conforto

.904 Curtis Granderson

.863 Wilmer Flores

.790 David Wright*

* Wright’s numbers might not look all that impressive until you look at the guy he replaced.

Meanwhile, Cespedes would of course rest atop that list, with a 1.028 OPS since joining the Mets. But as great as Cespedes has been, a) one player, no matter how great his numbers, cannot steer the greatest legal U-turn without a lot of help, and b) even if the Mets had traded for Carlos Gomez or Jay Bruce instead of Cespedes, they would still be ahead of the Nationals right now. Comfortably ahead, most likely. Which makes the MVP arguments seem a bit less relevant, now.

Unless Cespedes’ intangibles are so wildly off the charts that his next team should start paying him for his projected performance … and then double it for his ability to literally make almost every single one of his teammates better.

But his next team won’t do that. Because his next team won’t be dumb enough to think that he’ll do anything except approximate his projected statistics, with little or zero effect on the guys around him.

Sure, Cespedes’ tremendous seven weeks (so far) is a big story. But it’s merely a big story. THE big story is the team-wide turnaround, which is literally unprecedented for a winning team. What the Mets are doing – last in scoring from Opening Day through July, first in scoring afterward – has (according to Elias) never been done in the National League, and just once in the American League, by the 102-loss Indians in 1985 (their pitching wasn’t so hot).

But they would probably be doing that without Cespedes. The Mets have scored 311 runs since the All-Star break; No. 2 on the list is the Cubs, with 276 runs. As these things are measured, Cespedes has been roughly 25 runs better than replacement-level, which of course is outstanding. But if you take those runs away from the Mets, they’re still around 10 runs ahead of the No. 2 Cubs.

THE story is the Mets’ unprecedented reversal, and Cespedes is just a wildly interesting, highly improbable, and largely unplanned chapter in that story. There are other chapters, too. Maybe not as interesting or improbable, and certainly not as unplanned. But pretty good chapters, too.