The NL’s Most C(lutch) Player

Lots of high-fivin' for CD of late.

Lots of high-fivin

Baseball is a numbers game, moreso than any other sport. Most managers play the averages pitch by pitch rather than making decision with their gut. Lefty vs. righty. Pitch counts (My least favorite baseball number ever.)

Writers play the numbers game, too, particularly when it comes to postseason awards. We do that because it’s almost impossible to see every contending player consistently enough to vote by what you see versus what the stats say.

That’s why Carlos Delgado will not be the National League MVP, even though he should be.

The numbers don’t work for him. With a .261 average, he doesn’t crack the league’s top 50, and it’s way shy of even his Mets teammates Jose Reyes (.300) and David Wright (.291).

His 103 RBIs is impressive, sixth in the league. But it’s three fewer than Wright.

Thirty-five home runs is good enough for fourth in the NL. But, heck, Alex Rodriquez has 33 and nobody is touting him for most valuable anything.

Too bad baseball doesn’t keep one stat I’d love: clutch hits.

If they did, the 36-year-old first baseman might win in a rout.

On Monday night, Delgado notched his second straight two-homer game to lead the Mets to a 10-8 rally win over the Nationals and helped nudge their tenuous NL East lead over the Phillies to 2 1/2 games. Two nights ago, he double-bashed in a 6-3 over Philadelphia.

Reyes and Wright have more impressive all-around numbers, and they’re certainly the names MVP voters will likely scan first. But Delgado, more than any Met, has been responsible for preventing the words “September swoon” from re-entering the every day vernacular in this town (referring, of course, to the Mets’ blown seven-game lead in the last days of ’07).

He’s hit 24 homers since June 27 – more than anyone in baseball during that period.

Since July 1, he’s hit .308 with 68 RBIs. During the month of September, he’s hit .423.

That makes Delgado’s numbers money numbers. Numbers earned in the heat of a pennant race for a team that had seen its manager fired early in the season and was battling last season’s ghosts.

It’s easy to overlook a guy like Delgado. He’s a potential Hall of Famer but has never been much of a spotlight guy. Moreover, he’s missed an average of almost 20 games in each of his three seasons with the Mets due to various injuries.

During spring training and in the early weeks of the season, though, it became clear than neither Wright, Reyes or even teammate Carlos Beltran would be the bellwether of the Mets’ fortunes. As Delgado went, so seemed did they.

On July 1, he was hitting just .228, struggling with his swing mechanics, seemingly overthinking every at-bat. No surprise the Mets were underperforming, and deposed manager Willie Randolph was at home.

Now, his value is unquestioned – and it can be seen by anyone who might take the time to look beyond the numbers.

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