(until the “I Hate Ike” shirts are ready, the above tees are being heavily discounted)

After a 3-2 defeat of Pittsburgh earlier tonight, the Mets find themselves with a thoroughly respectable 23-20 record, an MVP candidate at third and their top two starters (Johan Santana, R.A. Dickey) experiencing career revivals.  Of course, they’re also a team with zero power, a diabolically bad bullpen and a first baseman that any team with a pretense of contention would’ve demoted weeks ago. What’s more, that gritty, actually-winning-games-stuff? IT’S A MIRAGE!  After catching wind of the Wall Street Journal’s Michael Salfino pointing out The Amazins “are on pace to finish 87-75 while being outscored by 122 runs” (“they’re off to the most cognitively dissonant start in baseball”), SB Nation’s Rob Neyer reminds guzzlers of Sandy Alderson’s Kool-Aid, “you just can’t do this for a whole season.”

The Mets will either improve their run differential significantly or they’ll start losing more often. Losing a lot more often, probably. Salfino’s right: the statistics on this one are pretty simple.

I’m not sure the Mets are off to the most cognitively dissonant start, though. Depends on your definition. Probably. Because they’re winning when they should be losing. But purely in terms of the difference between run differentials and records, they’re not alone. Essentially, they’ve won four more games than their run differential predicts.

The Orioles are also plus-4, while the Cardinals are minus-4. Considering that it’s almost impossible to finish a season more than seven or eight games off your expected number, we certainly wouldn’t expect those trends to continue, because in fact they’re not really trends. They’re flukes.

They’re meaningful, in that they tell us something that the wins and losses might not. They’re meaningless, in that the number of runs scored and allowed by a team over the course of 42 games can tell us only so much. They certainly tell us something … but they’ll tell us a lot more after 82 games, and 122 games, and 162 games.