Mets acquire reliever Brad Hand. That gives me hope.

Hand has 126 career saves. (Wikipedia).

I’ve said some unsavory things about pitcher Brad Hand in the past, but now that he’s on my side, I think I like this guy.

The Mets recently claimed the three-time All-Star off waivers from the Blue Jays, with whom he struggled to the tune of a 7.27 ERA in 11 games.

But that hardly tells the tale of his whole season; beginning the year with the Nationals, he started off with a 3.59 mark and 21 saves in 41 games before being traded to Toronto for catcher Riley Adams on July 29.

Granted, 2021 has not been his year. His walk rate is double what it was last season and the highest it’s been since 2012 … when he played just a single game. After averaging 12.2 K/9 IP from 2016 t0 2020, he’s K-ing 8.2 per 9 frames in 2021.

Do recall, however, that this is a man who had a 2.70 ERA and 157 ERA+ over the preceding five seasons. And from 2017 to 2019, he was All-Star each year.

While the Mets have a habit of picking up once-excellent relief pitchers—and players in general—who are years removed from their peak, Hand, just last year, had a 2.05 ERA and averaged nearly 12 Ks per nine frames in that stunted 2020 campaign.

Even his 2021 started off rockin’. Carrying an ERA under 3 through his first 13 appearances, he then hammered out a run from May 22 to July 5 in which his mark was 1.25. Hand’s dive might be an aberration more than a sign of permanent decline.

Or, perhaps, I’m being optimistic, because I’m a Mets fan and I want to see them pull off a miracle and reach the postseason.

With Hand on board, a bundle of injured players due off the injured list and the rest of the bullpen firing on all cylinders right now* the situation is looking up for New York.

*Recent ERAs from the bullpen: Edwin Diaz: 1.13 (since July 23), Miguel Castro: 2.45 (since July 11), Trevor May: 1.29 (since August 18), Jeurys Familia: 1.74 (since August 8), Seth Lugo: 1.04 (since July 19) and Aaron Loup: 0.42 (since July 5).

They’re just one game under .500 and still within striking distance of the second Wild Card with a month left to play.

The team tanked when the pitching did in July, with the club’s ERA rising to 4.43 for the month. It fell to 4.20 in August and is just 3.00 so far in September.

And with Hand around, hopefully, it will begin to drop even lower.

Studs and duds: August 16 – August 22

Spoiler alert: Gavin Lux is back.

Naquin was originally drafted by the Indians. (Wikipedia).

Offensive stud: Tyler Naquin (OF, Reds). Tyler, Tyler, Tyler. We’ve been waiting for you to show up. Naquin was hitting in the low-.240s as recently as early August, but is currently riding a 12-game hitting streak and batting .500/.552/1.154 over the past week. In 26 at-bats, he has 4 home runs, 3 doubles, a triple, 9 runs scored and 9 RBI. He’s a free swinger, averaging over 130 strikeouts per 162 games, but he’s whiffed just twice during his hot streak. It’s about time. Naquin was the 15th overall pick in 2012, but didn’t arrive in the major leagues until 2016, when he was 25. Since then, he’s been merely average with a  career 101 OPS+ and a ho-hum .326 on-base percentage. But this has been a breakout campaign for the 30-year-old outfielder, as he’s slugged 18 home runs with 66 RBI. Better late than never.

Honorable mention: Brandon Lowe (2B, Rays; .346/.452/.846, 3 HR, 9 RBI, 9 R, 4 BB).

Gavin, after seeing he’s the dud again. (Wikipedia).

Offensive dud: Gavin Lux (IF, Dodgers). After a day’s reprieve, Gavin Lux is back on top (er—at the bottom?) as the Dud of the Week. Nothing’s changed for him—he’s still riding an 0-for-6 line with 2 errors over the past seven days—but that performance was so lackluster, no one has yet to match it. When calculating my complex mathematical formulae in determining offensive studs and duds, I take defensive output into account and errors hurt. (Offensive refers to the fact that a player’s primary contribution is offensive, as opposed to pitching; it’s less clunky than saying “non-pitching stud”),

Dishonorable mention: Johneshwy Fargas (OF, Cubs; 0-for-3, 3 Ks).

Dishonorable mention #2: Jarred Kelenic (OF, Mariners: 0-for-16, 7 K). But hey, at least he managed 14 putouts. That’s … uh … something.

Pitching stud: Gerrit Cole (SP, Yankees). After a rough July in which he had a 4.71 ERA in 5 starts, Cole is back on track. In his past 11 2/3 innings, he allowed just 1 run on 9 hits and 2 walks, while striking out 15 batters. Winning both his starts, he held hitters to an anemic .256 slugging percentage. The Cy Young Award has been elusive for Cole, as his best performance in voting was second place in 2019, but he’s in the running again this year. He leads the league in strikeouts, wins, complete games and WHIP, and he has the best K/9 and K/BB ratios. One of the most adept strikeout artists in the game, he had 276 in 2018 and a league-leading 326 the next year.

Honorable mention: Logan Webb (SP, Giants; 2-0 W-L, 2.03 ERA, 13 1/3 IP, 15 K, 2 BB).

Pitching dud: Brad Hand (RP, Blue Jays). Gotta hand it to you, Brotato, your best skill at this point might be handing games to your opponents, and you do it quite handily. In two appearances over the past week, Hand blew a save, took a loss and allowed 3 earned runs in 1 2/3 innings. With an ERA of 3.99, this whole season has been a rough go of it for the reliever. Last year’s saves leader in that stunted campaign, he had a 2.70 mark in 306 games from 2016 to 2020—since his late July trade to the Blue Jays, his ERA has been 6.43.

Dishonorable mention: Alex Colome (RP, Twins; 2 G, 1 BSV, 2 IP, 3 H, 1 BB, 9.00 ERA).